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Copyright 2000 

Amanda Stronza 

Dedicado a los miembros de la Comunidad Nativa de Infierno. 


This dissertation is the work of many. I am most grateful to the famiUes of the 
Native Community of Infierno for their gracious acceptance of my questions and annual 
incursions into their lives. Because of their disarming kindness and humor, and their 
enormous patience, I was able to learn what I learned, while also having a wonderful 
time. I hope now the people of Infierno will receive this work — a direct result of their 
time and trust in me — as somehow useful to their future decisions and debates concerning 
tourism in their community. 

I also thank Kurt Holle and Eduardo Nycander of Rainforest Expeditions for 
providing office space, transportation, occasional lodging, and other logistical support 
throughout the research. I am especially thankful for the opportunity to peer into their 
financial records and private archives, as well as to incorporate my research methods, 
including interviews with tourists, into their normal operations. Finally, I am grateful for 
the sustained atmosphere of honesty and mutual respect within which we were able to 
debate, sometimes hotly, our differences of opinion with regard to tourism in Infierno. 

Over the years, many people in Peru and elsewhere have offered logistical and 
intellectual support. The staff of Conservation International's Peru Program, particularly 
Avecita Chicchon, first helped by inviting me to Madre de Dios in 1 993 and then later by 
suggesting I select ecotourism as a dissertation topic. The staff of FENAMAD gave me 
pemiission to work in the community, and then granted several letters of support and 
numerous interviews. Manuel Ponce de Leon provided statistical data and insights on the 


rise of tourism in Madre de Dios. Thomas Moore, Coca Chavarria, Alfredo Garcia, and 
Helen Newing gave many helpful critiques and comments throughout all phases of the 
research. William H. Durham and Constanza Ocampo-Raeder of Stanford University 
were also generous with their time and ideas. 

I am lucky to have been mentored by a committee of professors who share an 
extraordinary diversity of talent. Dr. Russell H. Bernard has nurtured in me a sincere 
love of anthropology and the methods we use, Dr. Irma McClaurin has challenged and 
inspired me to be reflexive in my role as ethnographer, Dr. Peter Hildebrand has 
encouraged me to be creative in making the field work participatory, and Dr. Ricardo 
Godoy has given me the tools to collect and analyze household economic data. As the 
Chair of my committee, and as the sole reason I first enrolled at the University of 
Florida, Dr. Marianne Schmink has shared her wisdom and advice with me in ways so 
honest and unswerving, they have often felt as much like friendship as teaching. 

Funding for the research came from The National Science Foundation, the Inter- 
American Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Florida's 
Tropical Conservation and Development Program, The MERGE (Managing Ecosystems 
and Resources with Gender Emphasis) Program, and The North-South Center. 

Finally, I thank Kathryn Lynch and Kristen Conway for their friendship, Linda 
Stronza and Opal Elder for their encouragement, Athena and Persephone for their 
affection, and Pepe Rojas for his love. 








Introduction 4 

A New Trend in an Old Paradigm 6 

Three Questions Relevant to the Impacts of Tourism 6 

Question LTradition, Markets, and Change 8 

Question 2: Concern For Sustainability 10 

Question 3: Making Ecotourism Participatory 15 

Ecotourism as a Special Kind of Market Integration 19 

The Promise of Ecotourism 21 

Four Insights about Community-based Ecotourism 23 

The Itinerary 26 



Biodiversity and Protected Areas in MadredeDios 29 

National Economy and Growth of Tourism 32 

The Ecotourism Boom in Madre de Dios 36 

Brief History of Madre de Dios 40 

The Ese Eja in Tambopata 42 

The Native Community of Infierno 44 


The Research Design 54 

The Ethnographer 57 


Ethical Considerations 64 

Stakeholder Analysis 65 


The Joint Venture 73 

The Decision to Collaborate 75 

New Attention from Outsiders 81 

Opposition to the Project 83 

Getting Started 88 

The Challenge Of "Fifty-Fifty" 90 

Learning Both Ways 94 


Shifts in Methodology 100 

Previous Studies on the Economic Impacts of Tourism 104 

Hypothesis 1: Wage Labor and Reduced Time for Subsistence 106 

Hypothesis 2: New Income and New Consumption 107 

Applying the Theories to Infierno 108 

Unraveling "Participation" 1 18 

What Does Participation Cause? 129 

Income from Tourism and Attitudes About Wildlife 141 

Conclusions From Economic Analysis 145 


Introduction 147 

Exploring Ethnicity in Infierno 148 

The Connection Between Tourism and Ethnicity 163 

The Reflection of Tourists' Views in Infierno 173 

"Cultural Rescue" in Infierno 175 

The Ethnic Split 183 

Conclusion 185 


Revisiting the Promise of Ecotourism 189 

Conversations and Decisions at the Crossroads 195 

Conclusion 200 










Table Page 

Table 1 Fluctuations in Peruvian Economy 32 

2 Fluctuations in Numbers of Tourists to Peru and Madre de Dios 34 

3 Three Titled Ese Eja Communities in Madre de Dios 48 

4 Average Annual Income from Tourism vs. Other Activities 1 10 

5 Explanation of Participation Index 120 

6 Summary Statistics for Participation in 1997 and 1998 122 

7 Participation in Tourism by Ethnic Group 123 

8 Participation in Tourism by Age 124 

10 Regression: Income and Education 129 

11 Explanation of Key Variables 130 

12 Household-level Variables in 1997 131 

13 Household-level Variables in 1998 131 

14 Bivariate Analysis, Household-Level Variables 132 

15 Regression: Participation in 1998 and Individual Profile 135 

16 Monthly Expenditures by Participation in Tourism 136 

17 Regression: Total Annual Income in 1998 and Household Participation 136 

18 Hectares Cleared by Same Households (1997 to 1998) 137 

19 Regression: Income from Tourism and Income from Agriculture 138 


20 Regression: Hectares Cleared for Annuals and Participation in Tourism 138 

21 Regression: Frequency of Hunting and Wages from Tourism 139 

22 Regression: Change in Hectares Cleared and Income from Palm/timber 140 

23 Perceived Value of Wildlife and Income from Tourism 144 

24 Mean Annual Income: Ese Eja and Mestizo 155 

25 Mean Number of Hectares Cleared: Ese Eja and Mestizo 155 

26 Tourists' Responses to Importance of Ese Eja vs. Mestizo Participation 157 


Figure £^Se 

Figure i Department of Madre de Dios, Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, and the Native 

Community of Infierno 31 

2 Economic Importance of Tourism in the Americas 35 

3 National Tourists Arriving to Departments in Peru 37 

4 Eco-lodges on the Tambopata River 77 

5 The Native Community of Infierno and site of Posada Amazonas 80 

6 Main Source of Income Across Households (1997) 1 1 1 

7 Main Source of Income Across Households (1998) 112 

8 Distribution of Different Levels of Participation in Tourism 121 

9 Ethnic Group and Participation in Tourism 123 

10 Age and Participation in Tourism 124 

11 Age Distribution of Respondents 125 

12 Men's and Women's Participation in Tourism 126 

13 Education of Respondents 128 


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School 

of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the 

Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy 



Amanda Stronza 
August 2000 

Chairperson: Dr. Marianne Schmink 

Major Department: Anthropology Department 

This ethnography of a community ecotourism lodge in Madre de Dios, 
southeastern Peru emerges at a time when concern over the destruction of the earth's rain 
forests has captured the attention of the public, policy makers, and scholars. Many 
conservationists believe that ecotourism may help protect rain forests and traditional 
cultures while also meeting the economic needs of local residents. 

Ecotourism is described in the thesis as a special kind of market integration for 
rural communities. For one, encounters between hosts and guests in ecotourism are 
transactions that involve more than the exchange of money for goods or services; they 
also involve the trade of expectations and ideas about nature and culture. Second, unlike 
other paths to development, ecotourism usually relies on the maintenance of tradition 
rather than a move away from it. Third, when ecotourism is community-based, it 
essentially brings the market home, and this allows for different ways of participating in 


the market economy without necessarily or irreversibly disrupting normal livelihoods or 
social relations. 

The main findings are: 

1. Economic analysis is necessary but not sufficient for understanding the impact of 
ecotourism on people and forests. When ecotourism is participatory, that is, when 
local hosts are involved as decisions-makers as well as employees, ecotourism can be 
a transforming experience rather than simply an economic incentive. For this reason, 
attention to process in ecotourism (i.e., how and why people are participating) is as 
important as measuring results (i.e., how much people are earning, or how many 
locals are employed). 

2. New attention from tourists and other outsiders, as well as economic benefits, can 
motivate people to protect resources and local traditions. When ecotourism is 
introduced to an area, it has the effect of holding a mirror to people. The mirror is a 
metaphor for the collective gaze of visitors filled with expectations about how a place 
should look, and how locals should act. These gazes and expectations can prompt 
people to become more reflexive about themselves and their communities, and to 
grapple with questions that will ultimately affect their future. 

3. Understanding of the impacts of tourism can be enhanced by paying attention to 
heterogeneity within local communities, revealing not only who is participating and 
why, but also how different kinds of participation lead to different outcomes across 
individuals and households. 



7:00 p.m., July 1998 

It is dinner time at Posada Amazonas when Raul pulls up a chair and takes his 
place at the head of the table. The others have arrived earlier, and now they 're sipping 
manzanilla tea as they wait to begin. The dining room is arched by a cathedral-like 
ceiling of woven palm thatch, and everywhere, the branches of trees twist and curl over 
the wooden railings. By now, the screech owls have begun their calls, and somewhere 
nearby, a bamboo rat adds a strangely syncopated message to the din of frogs and 
insects. Lightning blinks on the dark horizon, signaling another cold front with rain, the 
third friaje this season. "The moon is growing, " someone said, "The weather always 
changes with the moon. " 

Raul is wearing a long ceremonial necklace made from huayruro and palm seeds, 
a noticeable addition to his navy blue t-shirt and faded denim pants. He is the son of an 
Ese Eja man, the president of his community, and the leader of the Ecotourism 
Committee gathered this evening. Invited to join, I sit at the corner of the table, between 
Rosa and Diego. Julio nods and moves the kerosene lamp closer to me. ("In case you 
want to write. ") They call the meeting to order, and the kitchen staff brings out the first 
course: bowls of hot sopa de zapallo. 

As they wait to be served, they reminisce on how far they 've come since May 
1996. It was then that they first agreed to sign the contract to build the lodge. "I didn 't 
think we could do it, " Javier admits, looking around the table. 

"I knew we could, but I had no idea how much work it would take. " 
Manuel, one of the leaders, adds, "Yes, but I think it would have taken even more 
without the partnership " 

Raul clears his voice, indicating he is ready to begin. "Well, now we 're the 
owners, and tonight we have a lot on the agenda. I hear some of the families upriver want 
to build their own lodge. I have some ideas about how we might be able to help ..." 
At the next table, a young biology student from Lima, now working as a tour 
guide, is describing the history of the lodge to a group of twelve American tourists. "As 
one of the first joint ventures of its kind in Peru, " he gestures, "this lodge is a kind of 
experiment in ecotourism. The people from the local community, Infierno, participate in 
running the place. They work as waiters, housekeepers, and boatdrivers-like the people 
you 've already met. But they also participate as owners and managers. " 

Pausing for the soup, he continues, "The Community began working in 
partnership with Rainforest Expeditions a couple of years ago to build the lodge. They 
signed a contract, which states that the two partners would split profits, 60% to the 
community, and 40% to the company. The management, they agreed to divide fifty-fifty. 
When the contract ends in 20 years, the community will have the option to continue, or 
split from Rainforest Expeditions and take full control ..." 

"Wait, " a woman in khaki interrupts, "I 'm not sure I understand. Where is the 
community? I don 't see anyone living here. " 

"Technically, this is the community. It 'sjust that it 's very big — almost JO, 000 i 

hectares straddling both sides of the river. We passed everyone 's homes today as we i 

came up the river. The people who live here are part of an indigenous group called the I 

Ese Eja, and they share the land with migrant and ribereno families from the Andes and \ 

other parts of the Amazon. By the way, the 'Ecotourism Committee '—they 're like a | 

'board of directors 'from the community— is having a meeting at that other table right i 

now. " I 

/ see the tourists leaning over, and someone comments, "Seems like a good 

opportunity for the community. But Rainforest Expeditions has a huge responsibility to j 

be fair. " \ 

"True, " the guide concedes, "but honestly, I'm more worried about \ 

conservation. This area has the highest level of biodiversity recorded anywhere in the \. 

world. I just hope the lodge will offer enough income and jobs to convince people to stop 

hunting and farming. Already, they 've shown a lot of interest in protecting the Harpy 

eagles and the Giant otters, and I think it 's because they know tourists like you will pay 

to see them. " 

I overhear them and think, yes, that 's the basic idea, but there is more to say. 

This project has really changed people. If the tourists could listen to the conversation at 

this table, they would hear the hope and sense of accomplishment in people 's voices as 

they talk about the project and about their futures. The real success of the tourism 

project adds up to something more significant than the handful of jobs or the extra money 

it has generated. 


This ethnography of Posada Amazonas, a community -based ecotourism lodge in 
the Department of Madre de Dios in southeastern Peru, emerges at a time when concern 
over the destruction of the earth's tropical ecosystems, particularly rain forests, has 
captured public attention. The magnitude of the loss is the greatest the Earth has known 
in four billion years (Wilson 1992). As species and habitats are disappearing, so too is 
the cultural diversity of the world's tropical areas (Alcorn 1993). 

Many conservationists believe that ecotourism may help protect rain forests and 
traditional cultures while also meeting the economic needs of local residents (Boo 1990; 
Cater and Lowman 1994; Lindberg 1991; Sherman and Dixon 1991; Ziffer 1989). The 
Amazon has long lured travelers in search of tropical landscapes, wildlife, and exotic 
peoples. But more recently the Amazon has become a popular destination for 
"ecotourists" who seek not only adventure, but also the opportunity to learn about rain 
forest ecology and culture, and possibly even to contribute to their conservation (Castner 
1990; Dobkin de Rios 1994; Linden 1991). The hope for many is that their vacation 
dollars will give local residents incentives to protect forests and maintain cultural 

Ecotourism is many things to many people. For the Ecotourism Society, it is 
"responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the 
welfare of local peoples."^ An expanding group of new tourism companies now claim to 
go easy on the environment and on indigenous peoples, even as they strive for profit. 

1 ' Honey (1999) offers a concise summary of the many variations on this tlieme. "In all tlie tliem," she notes, 

"ecotourism is distinct from 'nature,' 'adventure,' 'wildlife,' and virtually all other types of tourism 
i because it focuses not simply on the type of leisure activity, but on tourism's impact and the responsibilities 

\ of both the tourist and those in the tourism industry" (p. 4, itahcs mine). See also Eadington and Smith 

(1992) for a helpful review of alternative forms of tourism. 

These companies label their excursions variously as "ecotourism," "community-based 
tourism" "cultural tourism," or simply "alternative tourism." Relative to other activities, 
such as hunting, logging, or agriculture, ecotourism seems to have a low impact on 
forests (Groom et al. 1991), and, ideally, revenues from tourism can be channeled into 
conservation. Some scholars argue, however, that too much tourism, particularly if it is 
unmonitored and unregulated, can spoil natural areas and disturb wildlife (De Groot 
1983; Giannecchini 1993). 

Development specialists also have mixed views about the impacts of ecotourism. 
They worry that tourism will contaminate the cultural identity of people in host 
destinations. In many ways, tourism is a kind of imperialism that can overpower 
traditional institutions and destroy local culture (Bruner 1987; Mansperger 1995; Nunez 
1989; Rossel 1988). Most insidiously, tourism can commoditize culture and render it 
meaningless (Greenwood 1989). Yet, some scholars suggest that commoditization can 
help protect or even revive traditional practices and beliefs that would otherwise be lost 
(Cohen 1988; Van den Berghe 1994). Some suggest that tourism may even encourage 
local hosts to develop new and empowering forms of expression and self-representation 
(Bendix 1989; Evans-Pritchard 1989; Lanfant et. al. 1995). 

In sum, ecotourism lies at the intersection of two discourses: one on the loss of 
cultural diversity; the other on the loss of biological diversity. For both problems, 
ecotourism represents the potential for a solution as well as the possibility of disaster. It is 
no wonder that conservationists and development specialists are talking to each other in 
conferences, journals, classrooms, and in the field about how best to implement 
ecotourism, and then carefully measure the impacts. 

A New Trend in an Old Paradigm 

Though ecotourism is a fairly recent trend, our explorations of the impacts of 
ecotourism can best be illuminated by reading from the past. Many of our mixed 
thoughts on ecotourism today can be traced to yesterday's debates over development and 
change in rural, traditional societies. For contemporary conservationists and 
development specialists, the market is either the solution or the cause of the ecological 
degradation and the loss of cultural tradition. But, for more than a century, social 
scientists have grappled with the same themes under the guises of "evolution," 
"progress," "acculturation," "modernization," "development," and "social change." 
These themes have appeared most commonly in studies that examined the impacts of 
capitalism and market integration on traditional societies. 

In the thesis, I will analyze ecotourism as a special kind of market integration for 
people in the Amazon. For some communities, tourism represents the first full-fledged 
introduction to the market economy, but for most other communities, tourism is the way 
to greater market integration. Places off the proverbial beaten path are increasingly 
opened to tourism as the international economy becomes more interconnected globally, 
and as transnational networks of transportation and communication are improved 
(Lanfant et al. 1995). As a result, tourists, guides, journalists, photographers, researchers, 
project managers, donors, and other outsiders are gaining access to even the most remote 
destinations around the world, including the Amazon (Buckley 1987; Gann 1995; 
Mitchell 1987; O'Rourke 1993), the Himalayas (Abram et al. 1997; Jayal 1986; 
McEachern 1995), and even the Antarctic (Hall and Johnston 1995; Vicuna 1992; Vidas 

Within the tourism industry, ecotourism has become the fastest growing sector. 
The World Tourism Organization (1995) estimates that nearly 600 million people per 
year travel internationally as tourists. Tourism is the world's number one employer, 
earning US$4 trillion-plus annually, and competing only with oil as the world's largest 
legitimate business (Honey 1999). Greenwood (1989) has suggested that tourism is "the 
largest scale movement of goods, services, and people that humanity has perhaps ever 
seen" (p. 171). As the industry grows, ecotourism is becoming a significant catalyst of 
economic development and socio-political change in rural communities throughout the 

Three Questions Relevant to the Impacts of Tourism 

My thoughts on ecotourism are influenced by several theories related to the 
concepts of change, development, and progress. These themes form the basis of 
anthropology as a discipline, and I believe they are well represented in the recent subject 
of ecotourism and its impacts on local communities. Two schools of thought have been 
especially important in helping me understand the significance of ecotourism as a 
particular kind of market integration. One is the model of sustainable development, which 
I perceive as a re- vision of earlier modernization models for development; and, the 
second is political ecology. Both of these paradigms are relevant to ecotourism because 
they address the impact of development on traditional societies, as well as how 
development ultimately changes people's interactions with nature. 

Three questions I have gleaned from sustainable development (and, by extension, 
modernization) and political ecology are: 1) What happens when traditional societies are 
newly integrated with the market, particularly through development projects? 2) How is 
improved economic welfare for people linked (or not) to the conservation of natural 


resources? 3) How do shifts in power among different stakeholders in an ecosystem 
affect the ways in which natural resources are exploited? In the following sections, I will 
characterize the scholarly debates around each of the three questions. 
Question 1: Tradition, Markets, And Change 

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many scholars tried to make sense 
of the social changes capitalism was causing in rural, traditional societies. The paradigms 
that emerged from this earlier research —precursors to our current ideas about ecotourism 
and its impacts on local communities and forests — were, in turn, influenced by the 
concepts of evolution and progress. Charles Lyell (1830), a geographer, sparked early 
thinking on evolutionary change when he argued that scholars could observe the Earth 
itself as a kind of end result from which to learn about patterns of change over time. It 
was Lyell who suggested, "the present is the key to the past." Building from this, Auguste 
Comte (1854) and Charles Darwin (1859) expounded on the principles of evolution and 
launched a new agenda, which uhimately pervaded most other scientific disciplines for 
decades to come. Most prominently, Karl Marx brought evolution to the study of politics, 
economy, and society by arguing that material forces introduced through capitalism, and 
the conflicts that arose from them, drove social evolution. 

Emile Durkheim (1893) also attributed social evolution to the capitalist market. 
He theorized that societies evolved from a simple, nonspecialized, "mechanical" form, 
toward a highly complex, specialized "organic" form. In the first, people generally act 
and think alike, performing the same work tasks, and having the same group-oriented 
goals; in the latter, people are no longer tied to one another, work becomes more 
complex, and social bonds are impersonal. Ferdinand Tonnies (1887) also characterized 
social evolution as linked to the market. Like Durkheim, he perceived two basic social 


groups, "Gemeinschaft" and "Gesellschaft." In one, the "community," people interact 
together on the basis of reciprocity, adhering always to a collective sentiment. In the 
other, the "city," people interact on the basis of competition, and are guided by self- 
motivation and egocentrism. 

Max Weber (1904) also described shifts from one type of society to another as the 
capitalist market gains greater influence. Weber argued that societies become more 
rationalizing and bureaucratizing as they move towards modernity. In modern societies, 
what once seemed governed by chance, feeling, and passion becomes calculable, 
predictable, and ultimately, "disenchanting." Robert Redfield (1941) developed a model 
of progressive cultural change between five communities on a "folk-urban" continuum. 
He found the urban pole characterized by greater heterogeneity, cultural disorganization, 
individualization, and secularization. 

In all of these theories, from Marx to Redfield, market integration was seen as 
causing a break from tradition and a transition to a new kind of society. Beyond bringing 
about economic changes, such as new opportunities for wage labor, price shifts, and 
higher incomes, market integration was also perceived as prompting changes in values, 
cultural identity, and social relations. 

Building from these ideas, and convinced that the persistence of community and 
traditional values was the problem to poverty and backwardness, post- World War II 
modernization theorists (e.g., Dalton 1967; Foster 1973) blamed religion, ethnicity, 
kinship, and other trappings of the past for the lack of progress and economic 
development in many contemporary societies. Modernizationists advocated large-scale 
transfers of Western technology to what they identified as the "Third World" to increase 


per capita income, and to provide for "basic needs," including education and health 
(Banuri 1991). The transfer of such development packages, full of the latest ideas and 

technologies, was perceived as a w^ay to inculcate a set of modern values and habits 


among peoples in traditional societies. Every step away from tradition was a step toward ' 


progress. Rostow (1960), in fact, described stages of development, through which all [ 


societies needed to pass before they could eventually "take off into modernity. 
Modemizationists plotted entire societies along unilineal trajectories of evolution, and 
identified them as 'underdeveloped,' 'developing,' and 'developed' (Escobar 1991, 

From these theories, I have extracted the first question 1 mentioned earlier: What 
happens when traditional societies are newly integrated with the market, particularly 
through development projects? I believe the current debate about ecotourism — a kind of 
market integration and increasingly the typical development project funded by non- 
governmental and bilateral aid agencies — and its impact on communities is rooted in 
these older debates about modernization and the impact of capitalism on traditional 
Question 2: Concern for Sustainability 

The second major question embedded in current discussions about ecotourism is: 
How is improved economic welfare for people linked (or not) to the conservation of 
natural resources? This question too emerges from a long line of scholarship on 
modernization and development, though with some significant changes. 

During the 1970s, modernization theory was widely criticized, especially by 
dependency theorists from Latin America (e.g., Cardoso and Faletto 1979; Frank 1969), 
who pointed out that, even when modernization programs led to national growth, most of 


the wealth was concentrated among elite sectors of society, leaving the vast majority of 
the population poor and marginalized. By the 1980's, new concerns were moving to the 
forefront for policy makers, project planners, and social scientists involved in 
development. Modernization was seen by many as a failure: economic indicators showed 
that the poorest of the poor were not better off, and meanwhile, a different but related 
problem was taking precedence, specifically, the accelerating rate of natural habitat and 
species loss. 

Rather than discard the development endeavor altogether, people began to rethink 
the approach. In particular, they began to consider how development could be planned 
fi-om the bottom up, taking into consideration local factors, capitalizing on tradition and 
community ties rather than discounting them, and incorporating "quality of life" 
indicators as the criteria of success, rather than total per capita income and/or the simple 
transfer of technology. 

At about the same time modernization was under reconsideration, policy makers 
and citizens in tropical countries around the world began to view conventional tourism as 
a failed development strategy. Rather than alleviate poverty, tourism was introducing 
new kinds of social problems, such as currency black markets, drugs, and prostitution. In 
addition, conventional tourism was associated with luxury spending, overcrowding, and 
pollution, all of which were compounding environmental degradation in the developing 
world. In the meantime, profits from tourism were being siphoned off to industry leaders 
in developed countries. In light of these problems, the 1980s marked a search for 
alternative, cleaner and greener forms of tourism (Honey 1994; see Munt 1994), 


With new concern for the environment, development scholars began to consider 
not only how market integration was affecting people in rural societies, but also how such 
changes were affecting the ways in which people were treating the environment. In the 
late 1980s and early 1990s, development goals began to overlap significantly with 
conservation goals. Specialists on both sides, particularly biologists, economists, and 
anthropologists, began to outline how and why increased market integration could be 
used to improve human welfare while also adding incentives to protect the environment. 
Scholars asked questions like, "How does participation in new wage labor influence 
people's livelihoods and their decisions to clear forests?" and "How does adding a price 
value to natural resources change people's incentives to manage and protect those 
resources?" and "How does poverty (or wealth), in general, influence conservation and 
degradation of the environment?" 

Some scholars began to suggest that the market could improve people's lives by 
allowing them to earn more income, gain access to better education and healthcare, and 
lower their population size, all of which would improve chances for conservation 
(Godoy, in press). Others argued that integration to the market would lead to new 
problems, including exposure to foreign diseases and social ills, shifts in livelihood, 
increased social conflict, and a general decline in people's welfare, all of which would 
further fiiel degradation ( ibid .). 

A framework for "sustainable developmenf arose from these debates (see 
Brundtland 1987; lUCN 1980; 1991) with a key premise that economic welfare and 
conservation must be compatible for either to succeed over many generations. In this 
framework, one way to reconcile the two goals of conservation and development is to 


account fully for the economic value of natural resources, and to ensure economic 
benefits for local stewards who protect natural resources. It is this premise that influences 
our relatively recent hopes about ecotourism. 

Jeffrey McNeely's book, Economics and Biological Diversity (1988), is a good 
example to illustrate the sustainable development model. McNeely argued that the most 
appropriate method to approach conservation is through economics, and that the shift 
from over-exploitation of resources to sustainability will occur through "economic 
inducements" (p. vii). In 1991, John Robinson and Kent Redford applied this concept to 
the conservation of wildlife in the edited volume, Neotropical Wildlife Use . "Unless 
wildlife has some use to people," they suggested, "then wildlife will not be valued by 
people. If wildlife has no value, then wildlife and its habitat will be destroyed to make 
way for other land uses" (p. 3). In a second volume in 1992, Christine Padoch and Kent 
Redford elaborated on the model and argued that placing a monetary value on forest 
resources may give people new incentives to conserve it. One contributor wrote, 
"Knowing that their economic future lies in the sustained use of [xate, chicle, and 
allspice], the families who harvest these resources [in the Peten region of Guatemala] are 
strong promoters of forest protection" (Nations 1992:214). 

To test empirically these ideas, numerous studies appeared in the late 1980s and 
early 1990s using measurements of the economic value of biodiversity in tropical rain 
forests (see Godoy et al. 1993; Gutierrez and Pearce 1992; Peters et al. 1989; Pearce 
1992; Ruitenbeck 1989). These projects showed, in economic terms, that biodiversity is 
more valuable intact than destroyed to clear way for agriculture, cattle, roads, or timber 


plantations. Again, the idea was to bolster the perceived economic value of forests, and 
thus give people greater incentives to protect it. 

A similar model was applied to the analysis of tourism. To prove that tourism was 
economically viable and therefore a potentially feasible strategy for long-term sustainable 
use of natural resources, Mendelsohn and Tobias (1991) applied a resource valuation 
framework to tourism in Costa Rica. They asked: How much rainforest, as expressed in 
dollars and cents, is tourism protecting? They calculated the value tourism was 
generating for a specific plot of land in Costa Rica, and compared it to the much lower 
regular market price for land to show that tourism is a better and cleaner development 
option for people (see also Menkhaus and Lober 1995). Webster (1984) applied this 
approach to Amboseli National Park in Kenya, where tourism had become the leading 
foreign exchange earner, and estimated that each lion was worth $27,000 per year in 
visitor attraction, and each elephant herd was worth $610,000 per year (cited in McNeely 

The criteria for determining "sustainability" of a development project is highly 
subjective. Indeed, the sustainability of anything shijfts depending on scales of time and 
space, and on who's doing the measuring. For this reason, most policy makers and 
academics use the term "sustainable developmenf with caution. Yet, the concept behind 
the words continues to inform policies and projects throughout the world, especially in 
the tropics, where accelerated losses of biodiversity are coupled with extreme poverty. 

Ecotourism is often recommended as a key "sustainable developmenf solution 
for achieving conservation and the alleviation of poverty. In a long history of scholarly 
thought as to the how capitalism affects traditional societies, ecotourism is touted as a 


new brand of capitalism, a kind of "anti-industry." I perceive tourism as an unusual form 
of market integration for rural traditional communities for three main reasons: one, 
interactions between buyers and sellers in tourism involve more than the exchange of 
money for goods and services—they also involve expectations and cultural expressions; 
two, the long-term economic success of tourism relies on the maintenance of tradition 
rather than a move away from it; and three, tourism is often community-based, and 
therefore has the effect of bringing the market to the community rather than forcing 
people to abandon entirely their homelands and livelihoods. I will elaborate on each of 
these aspects later in this chapter. 

Question 3: Making Ecotourism Participatory 

A third question I have found relevant to the current debates about the impacts of 
ecotourism is: How do shifts in power among different stakeholders in an ecosystem 
affect the ways in which natural resources are exploited? This question arises from a 
framework of political ecology, which is the analysis of how social, political, and 
economic dynamics over time and at multiple levels, from nations to regions, and from 
communities to households, affect the ways in which people use land and other natural 
resources (Blaikie and Brookfield 1987; Schmink and Wood 1992; Schmink 1999; 
Painter and Durham 1995; Peluso 1993; Stonich 1993). Often, political ecology has been 
used in the context of development policies in tropical developing countries where 
conservation concerns are greatest (e.g., Peluso in Indonesia; Schmink and Wood in the 
Brazilian Amazon). The point of such analysis is to understand how social relations of 
power are tied to decisions about how to use natural resources. 

Political ecologists have asked us to consider carefully how changes in relations 
of production condition resource use. In the Tambopata region, for example, Jane 

16 I 


Collins (1984) has explained how progressive limitations over time of the options I 

available to small farmers create a situation in which their only response to declining i 


productivity of land is to make more intense investments of labor into expanding 
production on unused land. 

In addition to factoring in relations of production and power to understand 
resource use, political ecologists have also emphasized attention on the individual 
rational actor. In the framework of political ecology, people in rural, traditional societies 
are not blindly following cultural customs that keep them in homeostasis with the 
environment, or, alternatively that force them down one-way paths to environmental 
degradation (Stonich 1993). Rather, traditional peoples are similar to modern, 
westernized peoples in that they have conscious and rational ways of exploiting the 
resources in their midst (Schmink 1994). And as rational actors, indigenous peoples' 
choices are often mediated by political and economic policies and by social relations of 

In adopting an actor-oriented approach to understanding relations between people 
and nature, political ecologists have highlighted differences within cultural communities, 
households, and families in terms of how people interact with the environment and in the 
ways they use particular natural resources (Rocheleau 1995; Rocheleau et al. 1996). 
These differences are shaped by gender roles, which are culturally constructed and that 
change according to men's and women's age, ethnicity, wealth, and life stage, and many 
other factors (Schmink 1996). With this insight, political ecologists have highlighted 
important differences in resource use between people sharing the same physical 
environment, village, and household. 


Context is especially important to political ecologists, for the conviction is that 
people do not make resource use decisions in a vacuum; rather they are rational actors 
who base their decisions on political, economic, and social incentives. In Contested 
Frontiers of the Amazon, Schmink and Wood (1992) offered detailed accounts of how 
politics, social movements, development policies, and conflicts over resources shaped 
events in the Brazilian Amazon over several decades. Attention to context in a political 
ecology analysis helps illuminate how competition over resources between traditional 
peoples and other social groups with varying access to economic and political power can 
affect land and resource use. In the case of Brazil, national policies that made official 
land titling procedures confusing or arbitrary compelled ranchers, squatters, and miners 
to used forest clearing as a way to assert their claims to land (Schmink and Wood 1992). 
Because squatters were not able to compete against large investors, many were resigned 
to move on, clear new plots of land, and eventually sell out to incoming investors. This 
process resulted in rampant deforestation. 

Together with the paradigms of modernization and sustainable development, 
political ecology forms the theoretical basis of recent strategies for applying ecotourism 
to the dual problems of poverty and environmental degradation. Two lessons from 
political ecology are particularly useful to understanding the impacts of tourism on local 
communities. One is that shifts in power between state agents for tourism and local 
residents or between tour operators and local residents, stakeholders in tourism, such as, 
between tour operators and local residents in a host destination, ultimately affect the ways 
in which resources in the host site are exploited. 

Several authors (Yu et al 1997; Bookbinder et al 1998) have noted that too often 


the connections between tourism, local economic benefits, and conservation are not 
achieved. The failure to link tourism with social welfare and environmental protection 
has often been because local communities were not been involved (Honey 1999). More 
to the point, tourism has usually been imposed on local communities rather than invited, 
and when local residents have been involved, it has usually been after the fact, and 
typically as cultural displays, rather than from the beginning as planners and managers. 

Today, local participation in ecotourism is gaining new importance (Eadington 
and Smith 1992; Torres 1996). Throughout the Amazon local communities are joining in 
partnerships with government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private tour 
companies to plan tourism strategies and develop new attractions for visitors. As a result, 
citizens are gaining increasing control over how tourism affects their communities. 
These shifts are making a difference for natural resources, as well as for local residents. 

Susan Stonich (1998) has applied a political ecology fi'amework to the 
development of tourism in Honduras. She found that devolution of decision making and 
management roles from private tour operators and the government to local residents has 
made a difference in conservation outcomes. When local residents have more authority 
to decide how resources should be managed over the long term, conservation is affected 
simply because locals (rather than tour operators or politicians or even tourists) are most 
often the direct users of resources. Locals ultimately decide, for example, whether a 
macaw will be hunted or protected to show to tourists, or whether a hectare of forest will 
be burned for agriculture or kept standing for use as tourists trails. 

A second lesson from political ecology is the acknowledgement of differences 
within communities, households, and families with regard to how and why people 


interact with the environment in particular ways. Resource use is often defined by social 
dynamics, relations of power, and culturally-informed roles and responsibilities 
(Rocheleau 1995; Rocheleau et al. 1996; Schmink 1999). For these reasons, tourism 
affects individuals within communities and within households differentially, and these 
differences ultimately affect the conservation or degradation of natural resources. 

Gender is one important social variable that determines who within a host 
community participates in tourism. Researchers have found that perceptions about 
traditional men's and women's roles can determine who among a host community does 
what in tourism (Swain 1989; 1995; Wilkinson and Pratiwi 1995), the conditions under 
which they work (Levy and Lerch 1991), and how they are received by tourists (de la 
Cadena 1991; Kinnaird and Hall 1994). By examining these kinds of differences in how 
and why people in host destinations work in tourism, we can discover not only what 
motivates hosts, but also what constrains or compels participation in tourism, and finally, 
how such participation affects resource use. 

Ecotourism as a Special Kind of Market Integration 

I have suggested that we can examine the impacts of tourism by first reviewing 
earlier scholarship on modernization, development, and market integration in traditional 
societies. I will also argue throughout the thesis that tourism, especially in its recent 
alternative forms, is a special kind of market integration for three reasons. One is that 
interactions between hosts and guests in tourism involve more than the simple exchange 
of money for goods or services. They also involve expectations, stereotypes, and 
expressions of ethnic identity and culture — these become the currencies and commodities 
that are exchanged between producers and consumers, or between hosts and guests. The 


inter-subjective perceptions of what's going on between hosts and guests (i.e., what we 
think they're thinking, and what they think we're thinking), and how both sides are 
influenced by the encounters, are not easily captured by economic analyses alone. 

A second factor that makes tourism different from other paths to market 
integration is that it relies on the maintenance of tradition rather than a move away from 
it. Historically, the key to development and economic success lay in new innovation and 
technology, along with the adoption of Western values (i.e., efficiency, individuality, 
forward-thinking). Yet, in tourism, what makes a place or a people most marketable or 
attractive to tourists is its mark of authenticity. Things that are "authentic," or literally, 
"worthy of trust, reliance, or belief'^ are rarely associated with technology and Western 
values — at least not in rural Amazonian communities, or in other similar kinds of places 
tourists like to visit. In fact, things tend to lose their authenticity when they are 
commercialized or made popular in the modern market economy. 

A third reason tourism is a special kind of market integration is related to 
location: when tourism is community-based, it has the effect of bringing the market to the 
community. This difference means that people can participate in the market economy of 
tourism in a multiplicity of ways, without necessarily or irreversibly disrupting their 
normal livelihoods or social relations. 

With these special features of ecotourism in mind, I have formulated my overall 
thesis question as the following: How does ecotourism, as a special kind of market 
integration, change the economic activities and values of people in host communities? 
How do such changes ultimately affect how people use and think about natural 
resources? In the thesis, I will analyze the particular case of the Native Community of 


Infierno and their project with Rainforest Expeditions, Posada Amazonas, to explain how 
these features of ecotourism have influenced the kinds of impacts tourism has caused 
within the community. I will use a case study format, relying on quantitative and 
qualitative data, along with insights from fieldwork and participant observation over a 
natural experiment of four years, to challenge and uphold various assumptions about 
what ecotourism can do for conservation and local communities. More specifically, I 
will describe how people's household economic activities, such as farming and hunting, 
and their values, especially those related to ethnic identity, have changed over the first 
few years of tourism in Infierno. 

The Promise of Ecotourism 
Though ecotourism is a special kind of market integration for the reasons I have 
mentioned, ecotourism is often characterized in ways that might be used to describe any 
kind of development project. ^ The success of ecotourism is typically summed up in 
terms of new income and jobs that can be used as incentives for local residents to protect 
habitats and species. A recent brochure from Conservation International, for example, 
suggests that "ecotourism is an effective economic alternative to destroying the rain 
forest for quick monetary gain. It offers jobs and business opportunities to local 
community members while creating an appreciation for the natural attractions and 
cultural heritage of the country" (Conservation International 1998, italics mine). 
Similarly, a Cable News Network (CNN) article reported, "The ecotourism boom has 
created hundreds of new jobs and put money in the pockets of local residents. 
Environmentalists hope that as the industry grows — creating more jobs and bringing 

^ Third Edition of The American Dictionary, 1994. 


more money to the Amazon — fewer Brazilians will feel compelled to cut, clear and burn 
the world's largest rain forest" (CNN Travel News 1999). 

Two biologists who have worked in Madre de Dios for many years also have 
highlighted the jobs and new income offered through ecotourism. In a chapter titled, 
"Tourism as a Sustained Use of Wildlife," Charles Munn and co-authors advise that 
tourism "should extend the economic benefits of development to a broad base of the local 
human population through employment, compensation fees, or the development of social 
services" (Groom et al. 1991:393-394, itahcs mine). In a 1997 article, "Ecotourism and 
Conservation in Amazonian Peru," Douglas Yu and co-authors write, "ecotourism 
creates a self-sustaining cycle of increased tourism, increased incomes, and increased 
incentives for habitat protection, which can include foregone hunting and farming" (p. 

I will argue that our hopes about ecotourism, namely that new jobs and new 
income will create incentives for conservation, are somewhat simplistic. Using the case 
of Infierno, I will show that ecotourism may be important more for what it does to 
people's values than for what it does to their pockets. I have already argued that 
ecotourism is a special case of market integration because it makes commodities of 
culture and nature. Because the products sold — a people and a place — are also the 
context in which they are sold, tourism gives rise to a set of circumstances that would not 
be found in other kinds of material transactions, such as in the sale of a sack of manioc, 
or the purchase of a barrel of brazil nuts. Tourism involves the sale of one's identity, 
one's culture, one's home, one's environment, one's self for outside consumption and 

^ I learned much about the discourse of ecotourism not from refereed articles in academia, but from tlie 
gray literature produced by conservation and development organizations, travel magazines, and brochures. 


enjoyment, and therefore, tourism necessarily leads to self reflection, and a re-cognition 
of one's condition. I will illustrate the ways in which ecotourism can transform people in 
positive ways by increasing their power, confidence, and environmental awareness, more 
than just make them richer or give them jobs. 

Four Insights about the Community-based Ecotourism 

Throughout the thesis, my interpretations about the impacts of ecotourism in 
Infierno will be framed in four main insights. The first insight is that economic analysis 
is necessary but not sufficient for understanding the full impact of ecotourism on people 
and forests. When ecotourism is participatory, it is more than an economic incentive for 
protecting natural resources; it is also a fLjndamental change in how people perceive 
themselves and their environment. Exchanges between hosts and guests can signal 
transformations more than just market transactions. 

Proponents of ecotourism argue that putting a price value on natural resources is 
the strategy to protect them; conversely, ignoring the economic value of certain species 
can place them in greater danger of extinction. Yet this argument implies that the only 
incentive in ecotourism is economic. The case of Infierno demonstrates that the 
opportunity to participate, the ceding of the authority to decide how local resources 
should be used, can be a powerfijl incentive as well. Community based ecotourism does 
not necessarily need to generate a lot of income, at least not in the beginning, to have 
positive effects on conservation attitudes and behaviors. When ecotourism is not 
participatory, it will probably indeed make people better off economically, but it might 
not lead to long-term capacity to manage resources sustainably. 


For these reasons, attention to process in ecotourism is probably as important as 
measuring results. When people participate actively in multiple aspects of ecotourism, 
including planning, marketing, managing, and evaluating (as opposed to merely showing 
up to earn a wage), they can begin to gain the experiences and skills that will allow them 
to explore other activities that may improve their lives. In this way, participation in 
tourism helps people grow accustomed to what they are capable of achieving and what 
they can determine for themselves. When truly participatory, ecotourism can be 
empowering rather than merely lucrative in an economic sense. When people are making 
decisions for themselves, they have the chance to gain from the mistakes as well as the 
successes — ^they are learning rather than merely earning. 

The second insight is that new attention from tourists and other outsiders can have 
the effect of calling into question and maybe even reorienting local values. When 
ecotourism becomes a factor of daily life in any community, it has the effect of holding a 
mirror to people. The mirror is a metaphor for the collective gaze of tourists, which 
prompts people to ask some simple, but profound questions about themselves and about 
their futures, such as: Who are we? What makes us different? What is special about our 
traditions, beliefs, and our ways of life? What would we like to share with outsiders? 
What should we keep to ourselves? How do people prefer to see us and why? What are 
our resources, and why are outsiders so interested in them? How are we using these 
resources? Are we over-using them? Could we be using them differently? Who should 
be allowed to use these resources, and to what ends? 

These questions that emerge in the context of ecotourism are important to ask 
when planning for sustainability, either in terms of protecting biological diversity or 


cultural diversity. Yet too often these are the questions asked by outsiders, such as 
development project directors, politicians, and researchers. When local residents begin to 
ask these questions for themselves, as they often do when they participate actively in 
tourism, they also begin to plan for themselves. In participatory ecotourism, locals make 
decisions about how to present themselves to outsiders, how to use their resources, and 
what to make their communities look like in the future, not only for display to tourists, 
but also, and more importantly, for the benefit of their own lives. In sum, people are not 
only made richer from tourism, they are incited to ask and debate questions about their 
identity, their community, and their resources. These debates lead to processes of self- 
reflection, self-inquiry, and critical analysis that eventually help people plan a better 
future for themselves. 

In Infierno, tourism has prompted people to discuss and reassess their thoughts on 
a range of subjects, including the cultural heritage of their community and social relations 
of the different ethnic groups among them, the merit of various development options for 
their friture, and the relative value of certain wildlife species over others. The addition of 
new income and jobs from tourism is not the sole or even most important cause of these 
discussions and changes in people's thoughts. 

The third insight is that we can learn more in our analyses of tourism impacts on 
communities if we pay attention to heterogeneity of needs and priorities within 
communities, as well as to different kinds of participation. Not everyone in a host 
destination will participate equally in tourism. Some people may participate directly, 
interacting with tourists on a regular basis as guides or performers, while others may 
become involved only behind the scenes, working as support staff or as wholesalers of 


foods and supplies. Locals will also differ in terms of how much time and energy they 

invest in tourism: some will work as full-time wage laborers; others will contract their 

labor occasionally, or earn cash only through the sale of goods. Others will choose not to 

participate at all. 

The analysis of tourism in Infierno demonstrates that gender was a key variable 

that determined who participated in tourism. Also, different kinds of participation had 

different impacts on a range of variables, from farming and hunting, to attitudes about 

conservation and development, and notions of ethnic identity. An analysis of overall 

impacts "on the community" would have missed such nuances between individuals and 

between households, as well as between differential kinds of impacts. 

The Itinerary 

"Ecotourism is a kind of tourism that is manageable. It involves taking 
tourists to see animals and to learn about processes. In ecotourism, 
tourists have an idea that what they have come to see is more than 
beautiful, it is necessary for all of us, because we are all connected. " 

—Community coordinator, Ke'eway Association, 1998 

The chapters that follow are written in the form of an ethnography about one 
ecotourism project in the Native Community of Infierno in the Peruvian Amazon. In 
telling the story, I will describe the community, the private company, the terms of the 
joint venture, and the initial results of the partnership. In subsequent chapters, I will move 
beyond description to an analysis of the impacts of tourism on various aspects of people's 
lives in Infierno. 

Tourism can be an ideal context for studying politics and economics, social 
change and development, symbolic interaction, and cultural representation. Because it is 


shaped by both social and biological factors, it is an ideal locus for the intersection of 
both interpretational and positivist approaches to anthropological analysis. Here, I will 
include two kinds of analysis. One is an economic analysis, based on quantitative data 
and a hypothesis-testing approach to social inquiry, and the other is more interpretive. 

In the quantitative analysis, I will test our theories about the impact of jobs and 
income from ecotourism on people's household economic activities, particularly farming 
and product extraction, and I will examine "participation in tourism" from both sides: 
What causes it? And what does it cause? With each numerical finding, I will include 
stories of men and women in Infierno to support and add a human dimension to the 

In the second kind of analysis, I rely on an interpretive approach to explore how 
tourism in Infierno has shaped new perceptions of what it means to be "native" or 
"mestizo," and has prompted people to reexamine how they are living, how they have 
changed, and how they hope to "rescue" certain remnants of their cultural past. 

At various points throughout the thesis, I will turn the lens back and describe the 
methods, methodologies, and field experiences that informed my work, as well as 
explanations of how and why these changed over the four years of research. 

In the next chapter, I will first set the stage by describing the region of Madre de 
Dios, its importance for conservation, and how tourism has grown in the area, especially 
in the past decade. I will also provide some basic information about the history of the 
Native Community of Infierno, which I will usually shorten to "Infierno," and the 
indigenous group, the Ese Eja, for whom the Department of Madre de Dios is native 


"Biologically, Tambopata is one of the world's mother lodes." So wrote authors 
Conniff and Bensonsen in their recent book about invertebrates. "It is possible," they 
suggested, "in a good half-hour, to see more species in Tambopata than the Italian 
primitives dared put in their paintings of Eden" (p. 127). 

In fact, seeing wildlife in most places in the Amazon is not an easy feat, despite 
the area's great natural diversity. Most of the fauna is well camouflaged and difficult to 
pick out through the forest vegetation. For this reason, having a guide, preferably a local 
one, becomes a necessity. Though in some places, especially where people have hunted 
extensively, and/or where habitats have been disturbed by humans, even the best guides 
cannot ensure tourists a good chance of seeing wildlife. 

Tambopata is an exception. Even first-time visitors with ill-trained eyes for 
tropical wildlife are Ukely to see a great number of species in Tambopata. In fact, a 
typical stay of four to five days in Tambopata promises the opportunity to see an average 
of thirty pairs of large macaws (including Ara macao,Am ararauna, and Ara 
chloropterus) a family of giant river otters iPteronum brasiliensis), at least four species 
of primates (including Callicebus moloch, Alouatta seniculus, Cebus apella, and Saimiri 
sciureus) tayras (Eira barbara), brown agoutis {Dasyprocta variegata), pacas (Agouti 
paca), and deer {Mazama americana). About one tour group per month is lucky enough 
to spot a jaguar (Panthera onca) and/or a tapir (Tapirus terrestris), usually during river 



trips. In recent years, Harpy eagles {Harpia harpyja), the largest raptors in the new 
world, have also been seen frequently. In fact, an everyday event for tour groups visiting 
the Native Community of hifiemo in 1997 was to climb a 40-meter tower and stare eye- 
level at a Harpy eagle chick as it was, learning to fly, digesting a sloth, or simply keeping 
cool under the broad wings of his parent. These opportunities for wildlife viewing have 
made Tambopata a prime site for ecotourism development in the past decade. 
Biodiversity and Protected Areas in Madre de Dios 

The Tambopata River flows from the Andean slopes of Puno, and through the low 
foothills and terraces of the Amazon plain before feeding into the Madre de Dios River, 
ultimately to drain into the Amazon River. Along its trajectory, the Madre de Dios passes 
some of the most species-rich communities yet reported on earth for birds, butterflies, 
and dragonflies (Gentry 1990; Foster et al. 1994). Tambopata is the site of Terry Erwin's 
famous research that involved fumigating a tree and analyzing the insect species that fell 
to the forest floor. After a careful count, Erwin topped the previous estimate of a few 
million insect species to 30-50 million (Erwui 1984). 

The watershed of Tambopata is located in the Department of Madre de Dios, an 
area that spans three million hectares and contains one of the lowest human population 
densities in the entire Amazon basin. It is only fittmg that the Department contains three 
major protected areas: the Manu Biosphere Reserve, the Bahuaja Sonene National Park 
(which includes the Pampas del Heath National Sanctuary), and the Tambopata Candamo 
Reserved Zone.' 

For those who know Madre de Dios, it is not surprising that Tambopata would be 
the location for an innovative and highly participatory approach to community-based 


ecotomism. The region has a long history of popular participation in matters that, in 
other places, have been the domain of government managers. The Tambopata Candamo 
Reserved Zone, in particular, is an exemplary model of local involvement in protected 
area planning and management (Chicchon 1993, 1994). 

In 1990, the Peruvian government first declared the Reserved Zone as a transitory 
protected area to allow^ for further planning and management (Bemales et al. 1993; 
INRENA et al. 1 994). One year after the reserved zone had been declared, two locally 
active conservation organizations joined with the government to organize a forum that 
brought together local stakeholders, including colonist farmers, indigenous peoples, 
miners, brazil nut collectors, loggers, ecotourism operators, and others, to discuss their 
disparate and overlapping interests, and to identify common goals. The landmark 
meeting began a process of participatory planning that has since led to numerous 
workshops, informal meetings, radio programs, and other events through which locals 
have been engaged in making decisions about how land and other resources should be 
used in Tambopata. A second forum in 1993 rejoined stakeholders to discuss baseline 
data on the Reserved Zone, and to determine permanent land use categories (Chicchon 
1994; Rojas 1993). The result of the second forum was a proposal to establish the 
Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. 

The Bahuaja-Sonene National Park encompasses 537,053 hectares and was 
created in 1996. From Madre de Dios' capital city of Puerto Maldonado, the entrance to 
the park, which lies at the confluence of the Tambopata and Malinowski rivers, is 5-6 
hours by boat (with a 55-hp engine). The park joins a protected area of tropical forest in 
Bolivia known as the Madidi National Park and forms an important conservation 

' The Reserved Zone extends into the Department ofPuno as well as Madre de Dios. 


V IMknm 

Bahmja-Soiiaie National Park 

Tsmfeefsata River 

Figure 1 Department of Madre de Dios, Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, and the Native 
Commimity of Infiemo 

corridor. The Native Community of Infiemo and its commimity-based lodge, Posada 
Amazonas, are situated in the buffer zone of Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, within the 
Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone. 


National Economy and Growth of Tourism 

Peru's record growth rates in the world during the administration of President 
Fujimori has had a significant impact on the expansion of tourism, and particularly of 
ecotourism (see Table 1). Since coming to office in July 1990, Fujimori has liberalized 
trade, investment, and foreign exchange regulations (Fernandez 1992). His 
administration's economic restructuring program, initially known as "Fujishock," 
entailed shrinking the state bureaucracy, opening Peru's economy to foreign investment, 
and removing price distortions, such as subsidies, low interest rates, overvalued currency 
(Strong 1991; Vasquez Villanueva 1 993, 1 994). The tourism sector in Peru has benefited 
from several pohcies specifically aimed at bolstering revenues from tourism. These 
include privatizing a formerly state-owned airline and one of the largest hotel chain, and 
creating a new legal framework to stimulate tourism investment, and granting 
concessions to the private sector for various tourist support services (Intemational 
Tourism Reports 1996). 

Table 1 Fluctuations in Peruvian Economy 



Policies and Events 



Implementation of austerity program 



El Nino causes drop in fish catch 



Government ends arrears with IMF and World 



Strong foreign investment 



Highest recorded growth rate in the world 



Strong foreign investment continued 



Capital inflows 



El Nino's impact on agriculture 

Source: Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas Peru 


The Peruvian government has promoted tourism as a way to build foreign 
exchange and investment, and ultimately, to strengthen and diversify the national 
economy. In a 1 998 interview for a national newsmagazine, one government minister 
described tourism as Peru's "platform for development in the next millenium" (Caretas 
1998). Earnings from tourism have risen steadily since the early 1 990s (International 
Tourism Reports 1996). In 1987, Groom et al. (1991) estimated tourists contributed $6.8 
million to the Peruvian economy (p. 399); ten years later, the contribution has more than 
doubled (PromPera 1996). In fact, the tourist industry in Peru, including tour agencies, 
hotels, anliues, restaurants and entertainment, is the fastest-growing sector of the nation's 
economy, and is now the third-largest generator of foreign exchange, after copper and 
fishmeal (ibid.). 

Peru's tourism industry has proven to be very responsive to social and political 
conditions. Table 2 shows the turns tourism has taken over the years. The rises and falls 
can be easily matched with major global and national events. Though a cholera epidemic, 
global recession, and terrorist activities caused Peruvian tourism to crash in 1991, relative 
social stabihty since 1993 (linked with counter-terrorism efforts) has allowed Peru to 
regain the attention of tourists. According to the International Tourism Reports (1996), 
"it is clearly the improvement of Peru's image which has been the single most important 
factor behind the impressive recovery" (p. 44). 

Tourism in Madre de Dios has proven even more sensitive to vagaries m the 
market. Table 2 shows that the slump Peru as a nation experienced in 1992 was even 
more pronounced in Madre de Dios. This may be a function of the elasticity of demand 
for certaia tourist destmations in Peru. Tourists who want to see the Incan ruins of 


Machu Picchu, a United Nations Cultural Heritage site, have only one option about where 
to go. There is only one Machu Picchu, and some tourists will go there regardless of how 
stable or safe they perceive Peru to be. On the other hand, tourists who wish to visit the 
rainforest have many options outside of Peru. Politically stable Costa Rica, in particular, 
has been a popular alternative for many years. 

Though Costa Rica has long been a favorite among ecotourists, Peru has begun to 
gain a greater share of the market. Economically, the contribution of tourism (including 
ecotourism) to Peru's total gross domestic product and employment is one of the highest 
in the world (see Figure 3). Peru's leadership in this category can be explained by the 
fact that ecotourism is the fastest growing within the global tourism industry (Sweeting et 
al. 1 999). In fact, ecotourism is growing between 2.5 and 7 times faster than the rest of 
the tourism sector (Ecotourism Society 1 999). The trend within the global tourism 

Table 2 Fluctuations in Numbers of Tourists to Peru and Madre de Dios 


Number of Tourists 

% Change 


of Tourists 

% Change 

to Peru 

to Madre de Dios 




































Source: MITINCI 

industry is toward ecotourism, and Peru the emerging leader in the world for ecotourism 
destination, even ahead of other well-known ecotourism sites like Belize and Costa Rica 
(see Figure 3). In sum, ecotourism has become Peru's competitive advantage in the 



world tourism market. Not only are more tourists coming to Peru because of ecotourism, 
they're also staying longer because of ecotourism. A representative from PromPeru, the 
government's tourism office, explained, "The average tourist used to stay in Peru for 
about 5.5 days, and now most tourists stay about 13 days. This extension is due largely 
to adventure travel and ecotourism." (cited in Crapper 1998:21). 

Peru offers a diversity of ecosystems, the highest recorded biodiversity in the 
world, and several attractions for cultural and archaeological tourism.^ Some say that 
ecotourism' s new clout in Peru contributed to the government's decision to establish the 
Bahuaja-Sonene National Park in 1996. The declaration of the park was, indeed, a major 
coup for conservationists and ecotourism operators alike, especially because Mobil Oil 
was involved in oil prospecting, and a Trans-Oceanic Highway had been planned for 
years (Yu et al. 1997:137). 

Projected Growth of Tourism in the Americas 


7 ~ 

6 ^ 





4.2 4.2 

2.6 _ 




ED Tourism Gross 
Domestic Product 

■ Tourism Employment 

Ecuador Bolivia Belize Costa Peru 


Source: World Travel and Tourism Council 
Figure 2 Economic Importance of Tourism in the Americas 

2 The Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, in particular, have been big draws for tourists to South America over 
many years, and now tliey are often included in ecotourism package excursions to the rainforest 


The Ecotourism Boom in Madre de Dios 

Until as recently as 1993, Tambopata was little more than a hinterland to 
southeastern Peru's more famous destinations, Machu Picchu and Manu National Park. 
For years, only a small enclave of neotropical biologists and conservationists frequented 
the forests of Tambopata, and the options for tourists vv^ere minimal. Visitors could stay 
in one of three or four lodges along the Tambopata and Madre de Dios rivers, but doing 
so necessarily entailed making arrangements to join a guided group. Tourism was so 
minimal in those days that the "baggage claim area" in the Puerto Maldonado airport was 
equipped with a forklift that deposited travellers' bags, sometimes carefully, on a small 
wooden platform. The "airport lounge" was little more than an open-air kiosk several 
meters from the runway. Small groups of nature enthusiasts visited, and most stayed at 
one of the two oldest lodges. Explorer's hm or Cuzco Amazonico. In 1996, a more 
attractive and modem airport was built, and several new lodges were either created or 

Today, increasing numbers of international tourists are adding Tambopata to their 
regular itineraries.^ In 1987, Groom et al. (1991) estimated that 6,520 tourists visited 
Puerto Maldonado in 1987; by 1997, the numbers had more than doubled (MTTINCI 
1 998). Now many tourists who are not part of pre-arranged tours are flying to Puerto 
Maldonado for a brief glimpse of the rain forest. In fact, by 1998, so many independent 
tourists were arriving to Puerto Maldonado on the one daily commercial flight from Lima 

^ The majority of foreign tourists who arrive to Madre de Dios in tour groups are from the United States. In 
1 997 and 1 998, increasing nimibers began arriving from Europe, particularly from Holland, Germany, 
Italy, and France (MITINCl 1998). 


via Cusco that the regional office for the Ministry of Tourism was prompted to issue its 
first official tourist map for the area. 

The Madre de Dios region has become a magnet for national tourists as well as 
foreign travelers. According to the National Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR), in the 
1980s, Lima was the pole for Peruvian nationals. But in the 1990's, Madre de Dios 
became the pole, receiving a 97% increase in the number of arrivals. Figure 3 shows 
arrivals to lodging facilities ("establecimientos de hospedaje"), indicating that people 
arriving are travelers rather than migrants. In response to the increase in visitors, local 
entrepreneurs have opened an array of new hotels, restaurants, taxi services, and even 
internet cafes in the capital city of Puerto Maldonado."* 



National Tourists Arriving to Departments in Peru 


80% H 


40% ^ 







.4o/„ -44% 2% -19% 4% -19% 

Anc asl . Areqtnpa Lor 



Lima Madre de 


Q 1990-1996 

Source: MITINCI 
Figure 3 National Tourists Arriving to Departments in Peru 

'* Notably absent from these efforts to capitalize on the growth of tourism in Tambopata is the sale of 
traditional handicrafts. In 1997, the most accessible place for buying handicrafts was a small souvenir stand 
in the airport that offers just a handftal of inexpensive and low-quality items imported from other parts of 
the Amazon. In tovra, a couple of small shops featured a variety of basketry items, wood carvings, and 
jewelry crafted from natural seeds and fibers, but, overall, handicrafts were hard to find. 


Dusty and filled with motorcycles, Puerto Maldonado is a former trading post 
from the rubber boom era. Paint-chipped colonial style architecture reveals that the town 
was once home to a few wealthy families, in addition to the poorer brigade of rubber 
tappers. Today the official population count for Puerto Maldonado is 35,000, though it 
feels much smaller than that. "Maldonado," or "El Pueblo" as it is often called locally, is 
the kind of place where one can pass the same person three or four times in one day and 
think nothing of it. It is possible in Maldonado to walk from one end of town to the 
other in less than 30 minutes. But usually there's usually no need because whole armadas 
of rickshaw-like "moto-cars" and motorcycle taxis are waiting to be hailed at any given 
second. (Fares are usually less than a dollar, no matter where or how far one needs to go, 
unless it's to the airport). Restaurant owners and shopkeepers in Maldonado know their 
clientele by first name, and one particular street dog named "Chico" is affectionately co- 
owned by practically everyone. 

At dusk, one can sit on a bench just meters from the town's central square and 
watch pink-orange sunsets over the confluence of the Tambopata and Madre de Dios 
rivers, and in the evenings, townspeople, visitors, and a growing cohort of 
conservationists, researchers, and development consultants gather in the square to eat and 
drink in one of the two or three open-air bars and restaurants. On weekends, people meet 
at the only discotheque that offers a variety of music beyond the local " chicha." 

Though Puerto Maldonado has its charm, it is rarely the site tourists have much 
interest in exploring. Rather, most tourists treat the tovm as a mere transit point, one to be 
passed through as quickly as possible, on the way to one of the rainforest lodges on the 
Madre de Dios or Tambopata Rivers. 


Since 1990, the number of lodges along the Tambopata and Madre de Dios Rivers 
has increased from three to nine. Nearly all of these are considered luxury lodges, by 
adventure travel standards. By "luxury," I mean that they offer beds, buffet dining, 
running water, and other amenities. Non-luxury, or backpacker spots offer more rustic 
accommodations. In general, Tambopata has catered to upscale tourists who pay between 
US$60 and US$1 00 per night. 

As the number of luxury lodges has increased, so too have the opportunities for 
backpackers (or mochileros). In the past two years, local families in communities along 
the Tambopata river have opened at least six new guests houses for these types of 
tourists, and several more independent guides have begun offering relatively cheap 
excursions. Also, several rafting outfitters have begun to specialize in trips down the 
Tambopata River, which includes class 4 and 5 rapids. Even a family of ranchers who 
owns several hundred hectares near the community of Infiemo has indicated they are 
ready to join the ecotourism boom. In an interview iu 1 996, they said they had 
"repented" for clearing so much forest, and that now they wanted to plant trees, and 
invest in ecotourism. 

Tambopata has always been especially popular among birdwatchers. Famously, 
Tambopata is the site of the world's largest recorded birdlist: 572 species in an area of 50 
square kms. (are 850 bird species have been recorded for all of the United States and 
Canada combined). Of particular interest to many visitors is the fact that hundreds of 
parrots and macaws congregate frequently at several local salt licks called "colpas." The 
largest colpa in the area, and perhaps in all of South America, is situated just meters from 
where Rainforest Expeditions (the company who is partner to Infiemo) built its first 

40 I 

lodge, the Tambopata Research Center. Many tourists who pass through Lifiemo's 
lodge, Posada Amazonas, are on their way to see this large clay Hck. Since 1994, thanks 
in part to a cover article published in National Geographic magazine (Munn 1 994), the 
colpa near the Tambopata Research Center has been a magnet for ecotourists. If the 
Tambopata could ever claim the equivalent of an Eiffel Tower for tourism, this would be 

Brief History of Madre de Dios 

Tourism is only the most recent industry to bring outsiders to Tambopata. Aside 
from sporadic contacts during the 17th and 1 8th centuries, much of Madre de Dios 
remained uncolonized until the 19th century (Alexiades 1999; Gray 1996). The Andean 
mountains and the poor navigability of the rivers made the region practically 
inaccessible. The region was the site of trade of axes and knives from Andean 
populations, in exchange for feathers, honey, copal, living animals, and in the late 1 9 
century, cinchona bark, a treatment for malaria (Alexiades 1999). 

During the rubber boom, the Tambopata River became the major nexus of 
communication and trade between Madre de Dios and the outside world (Alexiades 
1999:94). With the collapse of the rubber boom in the early 1900s, Madre de Dios 
entered a period of economic and demographic decline. The economic slack during this 
time was only partly taken up by the emergence of the two other economic extractive 
activities, Brazil nut collecting and hunting of wild animals for their pelts. World War II 
brought a brief economic boom to Madre de Dios, ftieled by a renewed demand for 
rubber. The period also marked the beginning of improved aerial and road 
communications, though it was not until 1 965 that a road was built linking Madre de Dios 
to the rest of Peru (see Belaunde-Terry 1965). 


During this time, the Peravian government began constructing a dirt and gravel 
access road to Madre de Dios from Cusco, and encouraged migration by offering health 
care and education facilities as incentives (Collins 1986, 1989). The construction of the 
road Vk^as spurred by a belief popularized by a former president of Peru, Belaunde-Terry, 
who argued that the conquest of Peru by Peruvians would be complete "when the jungles 
have been subdued to our benefit ..." (p. 178). Andrew Gray (1997) reported that, since 
the 1940s, "the Peruvian state regularly saw the Amazon as an outlet for migration from 
the highlands. The hope was that the rainforest would generate development and 
incorporate the area into the country as a whole" (p. 76). 

The road opened the area to colonization by farmers from the highlands, loggers, 
and gold miners (Chirif 1980; Moore 1984, 1985; Renard-Casevitz 1980). Later, 
throughout the 1980s, Peru's Agrarian Bank, under the popuhst regime of Alan Garcia, 
subsidized primarily rice and beef production in Madre de Dios to help meet national 
demand (Aramburu 1 992). Policies in that era were founded on the belief that 
Amazonian soils were highly fertile and appropriate for large-scale agricultural 
production (FADEMAD 1992). 

Like the perceived need for new roads to penetrate the Amazon, the belief in the 
fertility of Amazonian soils was also a by-product of former president Belaimde-Terry 
impassioned 1 960s propaganda. In his book, Peru's Own Conquest, he wrote, "The 
eastern slopes of the Andes present a wide variety of locations at differing altitudes and 
offer the best potential for the development of agriculture and stock raising. An ideal 
habitat may be sought and found, where land can be obtained far cheaper than on the 
coast and with a climate much more favorable than in the highland altitudes" (p. 156). 


Ultimately, colonization and agricultural expansion subsidized by the Peruvian 
government and international development agencies led to significant loss of forest cover 
and the depletion of soils in Tambopata (Painter 1983). 

In the last few decades the trade in Brazil nuts has been important to local 
livelihoods, usually in conjunction with slash and bum agriculture, small-scale livestock 
production, logging, and mining. Oil exploration also began in the 1970s, resulting in 
concessions for two corporations. Shell in the 1 980s, and Mobil in the 1 990s. Most 
recently, ecotourism has become a lucrative. 

The Ese Eja in Tambopata 

Though Tambopata is home to many migrant and ribereno populations from 
throughout other parts of Peru and the Amazon, it is the ancestral homeland to only a few 
indigenous groups who remain. Among these are the Ese Eja, who Uve in Infiemo, and 
have recently become actively involved in the ecotourism trade of Tambopata. 

The Ese Eja, meaning 'true people,' is the self-denominated term for this 
indigenous group of the Tacana linguistic family.^ A few key studies are essential to 
contemporary understanding of the Ese Eja: Peruvian linguist Maria Chavarria (1980, 
1993, 1996) has documented extensively the language and oral traditions of the Ese Eja 
of Infiemo; Firestone (1991) compiled missionaries' accounts of the Ese Eja; Garreth 
Burr's (1997) dissertation concems Ese Eja mythology and shamanism; and Miguel 
Alexiades (1999) has written a comprehensive ethnography of Ese Eja use of natural 
resources, particularly medicinal plants. Two forthcoming dissertations about the Ese Eja 

' Alexiades (1999) has listed seven phonetic transcriptions of die name Ese Eja (p. 5). The one most 
common to the tourism literature, particvdarly in brochm'es produced by Rainforest Expeditions, is 
"Ese'eja." I will follow Alexiades' approach, which, in turn, was to defer to Peruvian linguist, Maria 
Chavarria, and remove the glottal to write "Ese Eja." 


are from Daniela Peluso (Columbia University), who has researched gender relations and 
social structure among the Ese Eja, and from Constanza Ocampo-Raeder (Stanford 
University), who is examining the impact of Ese Eja agricultural practices on 

The Ese Eja can be divided into three sub-groups, based on minor linguistic 
differences and geographical origin. The Ese Eja currently living in the commxmity of 
Infiemo are considered Bawaja Ese Eja, and they are historically identified with the 
Tambopata River and its tributaries. The other two groups are associated with the Heath 
River (also in Madre de Dios), and the Madidi River in Bolivia (Alexiades 1999). Some 
Ese Eja oral traditions identify the headwaters of the Tambopata (or "Bawaja") River as 
the place where the mythological ancestors descended from the sky along a cotton rope 
(Chavania y Garcia 1994). Examination of etimohistorical records by Alexiades (1999) 
indicate that the Ese Eja were living on the Tambopata river since the 1 6th century. ^ 

Prior to contact with outsiders that began sometime in the 1 6th century, the Ese 
Eja led a mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The rubber-tapping trade initiated a period of 
cultural exchange between the Ese Eja and peoples from other regions in the Amazon, as 
well as with migrants from Bolivia, Brazil, and as far away as Japan. Rubber tapping 
was also the first major step towards market integration, sedentization, and contact with 
outsiders. Particularly along the Tambopata River, where the tappers established two 
centers of trade, "the Ese Eja maintained extensive trade relations, supplying labor, 
fuelwood, meat and agricultural products to the steamboats" (Alexiades 1999:97). 

^ For an excellent summary of Ese Eja Mstory, refer to Miguel Alexiades' doctoral dissertation, 
"Ethnobotany of the Ese Eja: Plants, Health, and Change in an Amazonian Society." Alexiades has 
compiled a thoughtful account of Ese Eja contact with outsiders prior to and throughout the 20th century, 
relying extensively on historical archives and on oral histories from iaterviews. 


In the twentieth century, after changes wrought by the rubber boom, the Ese Eja 
began to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. Largely through missions, Ese Eja were 
incorporated into the nation-state, both in terms of spiritual beliefs and language, as well 
as in socio-political organization. With sedentization came increased exposure to 
epidemics. Extrapolating from ethnohistorical archives, Alexiades (1999) has estimated 
that the population of Bawaja Ese Eja was more than 1,000, including those who were 
living on tributaries of the Tambopata, just prior to the rubber boom. Today, the number 
has decreased significantly to fewer than two hundred. 

The Native Community of Infierno' 

Despite its native name, Infiemo is not comprised solely of native, or more 
specifically, Ese Eja, people. Historically, the land that is known today as the Native 
Community of Infiemo was just a piece of an extensive homeland of the Bawaja Ese Eja. 
In the late 1960s, the Peruvian military government of Velasco passed a law that granted 
land rights to indigenous peoples (Gray 1996). From then, indigenous peoples began to 
claim legally titled indigenous territories knovra as "native communities."^ In 1 976, the 
families living in Infiemo received legal title to 9,558 hectares, situated on both sides of 

^ Though I have heard mixed accounts, Infiemo (or Hell) takes its rather disreputable name fiom the time 
of the rubber boom. As this particular story goes, rubber traders on their way upriver from Puerto 
Maldonado to the overland pass in the Andes (AstiUero) usually reached the area that is now Infiemo by 
mid-day, precisely when the sun was highest, the heat most oppressive, and the men most exhausted fiom 
rowing. Over time, the robber traders began to associate the particular passage in the river with the 
excessive heat and physical strain, and, eventually, the series of bends in tlie river earned the name 

* Land titling came with the help of a local nongovemmental organi2ation in Puerto Maldonado called 
Centro Eori, which promoted indigenous rights in Madre de Dios for many years before the National Park 
was declared, and before ecotourism became a significant factor for social change. Today, Pera has more 
than thirty native communities; only about half of them have been granted legal tide (Alexiades and Didier 



the Tambopata river, about 40km from Puerto Maldonado and legal status as "native 
community" (CNI, Libro de Actas, 1976). 

Until the 1970s, no indigenous communities were recognized in Peru. Individual 
parcels within native territories were granted by the national government to "anyone who 
cared to colonize the area" (Gray 1997:77). This changed in 1974 when the Law of 
Native Communities stated that Amazonian indigenous peoples were to have all their 
lands demarcated and recognized as their inalienable territory (ibid:77). 

When the govenmient of Peru titled the community of Infiemo in 1 976, the Ese 
Eja joined with riberenos and families of mixed indigenous and Andean descent who 
were already living in the area since the rubber boom. The riberenos are peoples of 
indigenous Amazonian descent who were bom in Tambopata, Puerto Maldonado, 
Tahuamanu and other areas in the Amazon, including Bolivia and Brazil (Garcia y 
Barriga 1994). The Andean population is principally from Cusco, Puno, and Arequipa. 

Information about why non-Ese Eja members were incorporated into the native 
community varies. According to some of the elders in the community, the Ese Eja were 
coerced by the government representatives who were granting the land title to accept the 
presence of the migrants. Apparently, members of SINAMOS (Sistema Nacional de 
Apoyo a la Movilizacion Social), the entity under Velasco's regime responsible for 
organizing rural communities under a socialist ideology, conditioned support from the 
government — mainly for the construction of a school and legal title — on the acceptance 
of migrants into the Infiemo (see also Garcia y Barriga 1994:44). 

Garcia and Barriga (1 994) have reported that SINAMOS informed the Ese Eja 
leaders they needed to gather at least twenty famihes in order to be considered for official 


title as a "community." "Community" in this case is a legal entity recognized before the 
state, which has the right to solicit government support for public works facilities (mainly 
for education and health), as well as legal representation. The Ese Eja who were living in 
dispersed settlements called Chonta and Hermosa Grande, were represented by only 
fourteen families. In interviews, they recollected they were afraid they would lose their 
rights to government support unless they pulled in more families to join them, and thus 
qualify as a "community." 

Official minutes from meetings in which the future commimity members began 
negotiating who would be included in the new community indicate that there were 
concerns about ethnic differences between the families, and how these would play out in 
a shared community. According to the notes from one of the earliest meetings, a 
government representative from SINAMOS acknowledged "two classes" i^'dos clases") 
of people, and then asked, "why cannot these two forces unite?" Apparently answering 
his own question, he then added, "the natives also can be absorbed with the mestizos" 
(CNI, Libro de Actas, February 1995). 

In that same meeting, an elder from one of the Ese Eja families announced that he 
did not want to join the "mestizos" because they "deceive us and look at us badly." ("no^ 
enganan y nos miran mal").^ A yoimger Ese Eja leader, spoke up, "Why don't we join 
with the mestizos so that we can have more power? Today we are all brothers, and we are 
all equal. The bad treatment and the naming of 'the Indian' to humiliate us has finished." 

One of the mestizos responded, "Yes, there is discrimination, but there is no 
reason to call anyone 'Indian' if we are all one race." 

' "Mestizo" is a catch-all tenn often used in Infiemo to refer to anyone who is not Ese Eja, including 
Andean immigrants and riberenos. 


Minutes from a subsequent meeting three months later, reported that "all is well" 
in reference to the new settlement, save for "a lack of confidence in working together 
with the mestizos because some of them have committed abuses" (CNI, Libro de Actas, 
May 1995) 

Finally, a year later, SINAMOS offered to build a new school, and the families 

agreed to form one community. Yet a persistent and underlying tension remained, as the 

following comment from the official minutes reveals: 

"Between the mestizos and the natives, there are disagreements, and because of 
these, the community will not be able to develop in the best way. It was agreed 
that the natives will work on one side [of the river] and the mestizos will work on 
the other side, where the school is" (CNI, Libro de Actas, June 1976). 

Anthropologist Andrew Gray observed that "the Law of Native Communities 
arbitrarily divides each people into communities, many of which are not contiguous. The 
consequence of this is that islands of indigenous communities appear throughout the 
rainforest which do not reflect the territory of any people as a whole" (p. 78). As one 
anthropologists characterized the creation of Infiemo, "They basically drew a rectangle 
on a map!"^° 

Over the following years, the founding members of Infiemo gradually accepted 
several new families of Andean colonists. These migrants became official members of 
the community and were granted rights to extract and produce from communal lands. In 
interviews, about half of the current population identified themselves and their children 
as Ese Eja (also reported in Chavarria and Garcia 1 993). Most of the newer residents live 
in a portion of the community called Cascajal, which is north of Infiemo (that is, the 

' For a view of the straight-edge boimdaries of Infiemo, see Figure 5 in Chapter 4. 


portion of the commimity called "Infiemo," within Infiemo proper) and thus closer to 
Puerto Maldonado. 

Of the three Ese Eja communities in Madre de Dios, Infiemo is the one most 
integrated with the main market in Puerto Maldonado and with other outside influences. 
Compared to Sonene or Palma Real, the other two Ese Eja communities in the 
Department of Madre de Dios, Infiemo is, by all accounts, the most modem (see Table 3) 
A lack of Ese Eja identity and tradition in Infiemo is apparent in the most obvious ways, 
such as the way people speak, dress, and interact with outsiders, as well as in invisible or 
more subtle ways, such as how people perceive characterize their identity and their 

Table 3 Three Titled Ese Eja Communities in Madre de Dios 


Travel Time 
from Puerto 
(Upriver in 
16hp motor) 

Time by 

Size of 




Sources of 


4 hours 




elders speak 
Ese Eja. 


Palma Real 

6 hours 

no access 



Spanish and 
Ese Eja 

Brazil nuts; 


10 hours 

no access 



Mostly Ese 

Brazil nuts; 
leaf thatch 

Source for Palma Real anc 

Sonene: Alexiades (1999) 


The differences between Infiemo and other Ese Eja communities are linked to 
many factors that have accumulated over time, such as differential relations with 
religious missions, the state, and private traders. In the latter half of this century, two 
factors have been especially influential in changing the cultural landscape of Infiemo. For 
one, Infiemo is located very near to the main urban center of Puerto Maldonado, and, 
two, since the mid-1970s, the Ese Eja in Infiemo have shared their territory and everyday 
lives with the riberenos and Andean families. 

Because Infiemo is a short distance by road or river to the capital city of Puerto 
Maldonado, everyday life in the community is shaped by a range of contrasting and often 
clashing influences. Families there are neither totally dependent on the market, nor 
entirely self-reliant as subsistence producers; though they are "Pemvians" who speak 
Spanish and practice Catholicism, many also describe themselves as indigenous, and they 
maintain traditional beliefs and practices. They are a community that is in-between in 
many ways: they are close to Puerto Maldonado and thus they are easily accessible by 
outsiders; yet they are largely unable to travel anywhere they want, or communicate with 
the rest of the world on their own terms. ^^ They are close to the market, and thus they 
are constantly exposed to new consumer goods and services; yet, most of them are unable | 

to eam enough income to purchase what they need. They are near an important protected 
area, the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, and so they are often targeted for new 
"sustainable development" projects (like ecotourism); yet, most of them are unable to 

" In 1 997, the Peravian government expanded and improved a road that comiects Infiemo to Puerto 
Maldonado. This implies that tourism is not the sole or even most important source of change in Infiemo. 
Outsiders arriving fiom Puerto Maldonado have easy access to Infiemo. Every year, it gets easier to drive 
or take a boat there — ^the outboard motors get bigger, and the road gets wider. Yet most people in Infiemo 
lack their own form of transportation. Only a few families out of eighty own motorcycles or even bicycles 
to be able to use the road; and only one family owns a boat with a 1 6 hp motor. 


understand the plethora of bureaucratic and legal rules that are part of the typical project 

Just a brief examination of the situation for education in Mfiemo captures the 
dilemma of being in-between the urban market economy and the rural subsistence 
economy. It is nearly impossible for families in Infiemo to educate their children fully 
while also maintaining a productive livelihood and healthy household. Though Infiemo 
does have a kindergarten and primary school through 6th grade for students, most 
families live so far from the school that their children must walk dirt trails or paddle 
along the river for several kilometers everyday just to arrive. When they do arrive, they 
share poorly-equipped, one-room classrooms with other children of many different ages, 
grades, and abilities, and are taught through rote memorization from teachers who are 
hired by the government and usually have little knowledge of the community or the local 

If and when children do finish 6th grade, they have two options: stay in the 
community and thus quit school (because there is no secondary school), or move to 
Puerto Maldonado where the only secondary schools in the entire region are located, and 
continue studying. Famihes of students who choose the second option usually send one 
parent (most often the mother) to town with the younger siblings, and leave the other 
parent behind, dividing the family, just to be able to maintain the farm and homestead. 
The sacrifice for families who choose to relocate and divide themselves is tremendous. 
Conditions in Puerto Maldonado for poor and newly arrived families are abysmal, with 
tight quarters in unsanitary and imsafe neighborhoods. 


Another important factor that distinguishes Infiemo from other Ese Eja 
communities ia Madre de Dios is the fact that it has had previous experience with 
tourism. In 1 977, a company named Peruvian Safaris, owners of Explorer's Inn, the first 
ecolodge in Tambopata, proposed collaboration with the community. Initially, 
Explorer's Inn served as a base from which European and North American clientele 
could participate in trophy hunting. When such hunting was banned, the lodge converted 
to nature tourism and research (Groom et al. 1991 :399). ^^ 

The owners of Peruvian Safaris approached Infiemo in the early 1980s to request 
that the community sign an agreement to stop himting around the oxbow lake, Tres 
Chimbadas, and in the 5,500-hectare area that had been approved by the government as a 
reserve for the lodge. Essentially, the company asked the conmumity to respect the 
territory for tourism purposes, and to refrain from some of their traditional subsistence 
activities in that zone. In official minutes from the meeting, the company referred to the 
problem of an Ese Eja hunter who had recently killed several animals in a troop of white- 
Hpped peccaries (CNI, Libro de Actas). At the meeting, the community members agreed 
to restrict hunting in the area, and also to assist Peruvian Safaris by clearing a frail from 
the banks of the Tambopata River to the oxbow lake so that tourists could gain easier 
access. In return, the company agreed to support the community with medicine, a 1 6-hp 
motor, a chain saw, and regular payments from entrance fees to the Lake. 

Over the years since Infiemo 's agreement with Peruvian Safaris, the relations 
between the two have vacillated. Partly because of fmancial troubles, and partly out of 
neglect, the company did not fulfill its obligation of paying the community a standard fee 

'^ Several prominent biologists, including Terry Erwin, and the late Al Gentry and Ted Parker, were based 
in Explorer's Inn while they carried out seminal research in neotropical ecology. 


for each tourist who visited the lake. In later years, a territorial dispute between the 
community and the company ensued (see Garcia and Barriga 1994; Yu et al. 1997). 
Though some people from Infiemo have collaborated well with Peruvian Safaris, on the 
whole, the relationship between the company and the commimity did not fare well for 

As tourism m Madre de Dios began grow in the 1990s, Infiemo was gaining little 
from the new prosperity. Though some individuals were engaged in tourism, their 
participation was sporadic and limited to contractual wage labor. The hierarchy of power 
ui local tourism had not been changed. No one from hifiemo, or from any other local 
communities, was participating in tourism as owners and decision-makers. 

In Chapters 3 and 4, 1 will describe the methodology for the study and provide 
general ethnographic background about the first year of joint venture between Rainforest 
Expeditions and Infiemo. hi Chapter 5, 1 will test the promise of ecotourism, assessing 
how different levels and kinds of participation in Posada Amazonas have been correlated 
with changes in people's household economic activities, and in their values about 
wildUfe. In particular, I will examine how new wage labor and income from tourism has 
had differential impacts on farmmg and hunting. In Chapter 6, 1 will explore the changes 
tourism in Infiemo has wrought on people's sense of identity, and on ethnic relations 
between the mestizos and the Ese Eja. 


Over the four years of research, I could have analyzed the impacts of ecotourism 
in Infiemo from many different angles, relying on a countless variety of indicators to 
measure key concepts, and coming up with even more ways to interpret the information. 
This study represents just one outcome of all those decisions, and in this chapter, I v^dll 
explain the choices I made. Here I will describe the overall research design during the 
four years of the study, summarizing how my thinking changed as the data accumulated, 
as I learned more and developed new insights, and as my relationships with people in the 
community shifted and evolved. Because I divided the field work over four years, it 
seemed incongraent to dedicate just one chapter to methodology. Instead, I have chosen 
to reinsert myself as author and ethnographer throughout the thesis, at various points 
specifying what I was doing and thinking as the story itself unfolds. 

In my descriptions of process, I focus on three main aspects of my role as 
ethnographer: methodology, methods, and field work. By "methodology" I mean the 
philosophical origins and consequences of the different methods I chose each year to 
carry out the research. By "methods," I mean the tools I used to measure or understand 
what was happening with tourism in Infiemo. And by "field work," I am referring to the 
professional and often personal experiences that affected me during the research, and that 
surely biased my interpretations of what was happening. 



I make these distinctions because the methods I selected are more than just the 
sum total of the various tools I used to collect data, or to situate myself for participant 
observation in the cormnunity. My methodology reveals not only what I did, but how I 
came to know what I know — my epistemology — on a range of themes covered in the 
dissertation, including development, conservation, ethnicity, and social change. My 
methodology also reveals my philosophies about several themes not expHcitly addressed 
in the dissertation, but which do have implications for what I interpret and conclude. 
This includes my perspectives on culture, nature, science, and social inquiry, as well as 
how I present and represent myself as an anthropologist, as a young woman, and as a 
white gringa working in an indigenous community of the Peruvian Amazon. 

In this chapter, I will include information about myself and my experiences in the 
field in order to help reveal the personal biases that are inevitably embedded in my 
fmdings. In many ways, the dissertation reflects how the tourism project affected me as 
much as how it affected the community. Though the study is most importantly about the 
community, my interpretations of the community have been filtered through my 
experiences over the four years of research. The ways in which I changed affected not 
only how I approached and interpreted the community, the things I did, and what I was 
seeing and hearing, but also how I was received and perceived by the people around me, 
the kind of information I was privy to, and how it was slanted in the delivery. 

The Research Design 

My goal over four years has been to explore widely held assumptions about what 
ecotourism can do for conservation and local communities. I have used a case study 
format that relies on quantitative and qualitative data, along with journal notes from 
participant observation over the years. My specific aim has been to explain the impacts 


of ecotourism on people's household economic activities, particularly farming and 
foraging, and on their values, especially with regard to ethnic identity. ' 

I began the research in the same month the Native Community of Infiemo signed 
the 20-year contract with Rainforest Expeditions to launch their ecotourism joint venture. 
Because of the fortunate timing, I was able to collect and analyze my data as part of a 
natural experiment. Rather than complete all of the field work in one extended visit to the 
study site, I collected data four times over a period of 1 3 months over four years. In the 
first field season, when the lodge was little more than an idea, I conducted a stakeholder 
analysis; in the second field season, as the lodge was being built, I collected baseline data 
on people's household economies, and on their values about ethnic identity; in the third 
field season, when the first group of tourists arrived, I returned to ask the same questions 
I had asked in previous years, in addition to some new questions; in the fourth year, when 
the lodge was fully functional, and people were beginning to focus on other concerns in 
the community, I returned to work in an applied capacity, leading focus groups and 
workshops to envision needs and priorities for the future, assess current resources, and 
map out fu-st steps to capitalize on the early success of ecotourism.^ 

' I will focus on identity in the specific context of tourism, and I will provide little in the way of general 
ethnographic description of the Ese Eja, or of the other ethnic groups in Infiemo, namely Andean and 
ribereno peoples. Traditional Ese Eja society and its demographic and cultural transformations over the past 
century has been comprehensively and iasightfiilly described elsewhere by Alexiades (1 999), Burr (1 997) 
and Chavarria ( 1 980, 1 993, 1 996). Look also for doctoral dissertations on the Ese Eja from Peluso 
(Columbia University, forthcoming) and Ocampo-Raeder (Stanford University, forthcoming). 

^ In March 1 999, 1 collaborated with two Kellogg Fellows to lead a workshop in the community called, 
^'Taller para la Planificacidn de Desarrollo Comunar (Workshop for Community Development Planning). 
During die workshop, participants identified five priorities for development in their community: easier 
access to better education, higher income fiom agriculture, improved community organization, handicraft 
development, and what they called "cultural rescue" (see Chapter 6). Subsequently, I collaborated with 
separate committees around each theme to produce an integrated proposal for fimding of fiiture community 


As a result of this approach, I was able to leam what was happening in the 
community as the project itself was evolving. Stepping away from the field in the midst 
of the research allowed me to gain perspective and to discern patterns among events and 
ideas that often seemed unconnected, irrelevant, or merely confusing up-close. Also, 
dividing the field work over four visits gave me the opportunity to reassess and modify 
my original objectives and methods as I learned more, and as my thinking changed. 
Finally, from a statistical perspective, I was able to collect different observations from the 
same individuals, which then enabled me to build a panel data set. With panel data, I was 
able to make stronger statistical estimates than I could have made from a single cross- 
sectional survey. 

By returning over several years, I was also able to track changes in people's lives, 
and perhaps most importantly, to witness firsthand some of the changes people were 
experiencing and sharing with me in interviews. This come-again, leave-again approach 
was especially valuable for developmg trust over fh.e years. I left each year with a 
promise to return with results from the previous year, and when I did, people's reactions 
to me shifted, and their responses became more candid. As a result, the field experiences 
became richer every year and more personal. Whereas in the first years, I was writing 
about 80 famihes I had just met, by the fourth year, I was writing about people who were 
now part of my own hfe, and whose experiences and perspectives added up to something 
much more meaningful than the term "data" might imply. 

hiterviewing the same set of people several years in a row also helped bring into 
relief the problem of informant accuracy (see Bernard et al. 1984). hi some cases, I found 
that people offered radically different responses to the same questions from one year to 


the next. These differences popped up even in questions where I expected the answers to 
remain relatively fixed, such as, How often do you hunt? How many sacks of oranges do 
you sell each month? or How much do you spend per week on food? Asking the same 
questions to the same people over time probably proved annoying for those who 
participated in the study, yet it was an excellent strategy for learning about major shifts in 
people's lives, while also checking for the validity of my questions. I was most interested 
in the shifts that occurred in households where people had begun to participate in 

There were also disadvantages to spreading the field work out over several years. 
For one, I lost the ability to observe seasonal variations. I returned every year to Infiemo, 
precisely during the peak of the annual tourism season (May-September). During the 
dry season when I was there, between June and October, people were also busy with their 
farms, clearing and burning forest vegetation in time for the first onset of rain. But, I 
missed what was happening from January to April, the rainy season in which the rice 
harvest and brazil nut collecting occurs. Overall, my data is biased toward a period when 
people were most involved in tourism. 

The Ethnographer 

I have returned to the field every year between 1 993 and 1 999, spending a total of 
26 months in Tambopata. Before first visiting in 1 993, 1 had learned about the region 
through three years of work in the Latin American Division of Conservation International 
(CI) in Washington, D.C. By coincidence, my first year at CI, 1 990, was the same year 
the Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone was created. This meant that my own learning 
about conservation and development in the Amazon followed the trajectory of events that 


led to the participatory demarcation of the reserved zone, and, ultimately, to the 
declaration of the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. 

In 1 993, 1 had the opportunity to learn more about Tambopata through direct 
research experience. For my master's thesis, "Conservation and Development at the 
Grassroots: The Challenges for a Federation of Colonist Farmers in the Peruvian 
Amazon," I carried out eight months of field work in several commimities along the 
Tambopata River and on the road connecting Puerto Maldonado to the highland city of 
Cusco (Stronza 1 996). In that study, I analyzed the evolution and achievements of a 
grassroots organization, FADEMAD (Federacion Agraria del Departamento de Madre de 
Dios), which had become an active player in protecting natural resources in Tambopata. 
My interest was in understanding why farmers Uving in communities near the Tambopata 
Candamo Reserved Zone had chosen to participate (or not ) in conservation activities 
organized by the Federation. 

Throughout the months leading up to and after the master's research in 
Tambopata, I had become a close friend to the people of Rainforest Expeditions. (Today, 
my husband is a guide who was working with the company before and during the 
research). By the time I began the doctoral research in Infiemo, I was so inextricably 
linked to the company by everyone who knew me that when I stated my intentions to 
study the joint ecotourism venture with Infiemo, some of my colleagues raised their 
eyebrows. During the fu-st field season, I was questioned on numerous occasions about 
my role and objectives: Was I a spy for Rainforest Expeditions? Would my research 
unabashedly favor the company? If so, what were my ethics? Had I sold out? Would I 
support tourism in a native community simply because my friends ran the company? 


Particularly in that first year, my abilities to remain relatively impartial and objective as a 
scholar were seriously challenged.^ 

Over the years since then, and especially as I wrote the dissertation, I reflected on 
the challenges with an odd sense of gratitude. I have been grateful in knowing that the 
doubts people openly shared with me ultimately compelled me to make the research 
methods and analyses as critically balanced and transparent as I could. Had I not 
confronted reservation over my role in the community, and, in particular, my relationship 
with Rainforest Expeditions, I might not have been as concerned about accountability and 
rigor. The fact that I did I anticipate my work would be scrutinized with skepticism kept 
me especially sensitive to my own biases. 

Aside from arousing suspicions that kept me on my toes, my close relationship 
with Rainforest Expeditions also presented several practical advantages. In particular, 
my role as an insider made me privy to the company's fmancial records and archives, as 
well as to many candid conversations in staff meetings. Had I been more of an outsider, 
especially one opposed to the project, perhaps these privileges would have been curtailed. 
I imagine in such a case the research might have been biased toward the hearsay, rumor, 
and marketing propaganda that surrounded the project. Instead, the dissertation is buih 
on all aspects of the project, not only the published materials produced for the public (or 
the gossip), but also the private discussions about the dilemmas and problems the project 
was facing from the beginning. 

In The Anthropology of Tourism , Dennison Nash has found that many anthropologists refuse consulting 
possibilities with tourism companies because they fear "by getting into the tourism business one opens up 
the possibility of being 'boughf by one's employer an4 hence, the estabhshment" (Nash 1996). 


Also because of my role as insider, I was able to gain access to the lodge and its 
clientele on a daily basis. I observed the project not only from the perspective of a 
visitor, but also from the viewpoint of the owners, administrators, accountants, personnel 
managers, guides, cooks, waiters, housekeepers, and boat drivers. I accompanied people 
in their homes and farms in the community, and then I joined them in the lodge, watching 
and talking with them as they interacted with tourists and went about their work. In other 
moments, I accompanied the tourists on their activities and in the lodge, sharing meals 
with them as we exchanged opinions about the project and the possibilities for 

What I Was Doing 

Over the years, I Hved in three different places within Infiemo. In the first year, 
the community council agreed to let me stay in a small hut near the central commons — 
that is, near the soccer field and school yard. The thatched structure that became my 
home had been built as a kitchen for the 3-person staff of the medical post, and so that 
year I shared my meals with the nurse-practitioners (I bought the supplies, and they 
cooked). In the second year, I hved in a tent on the cement floor of the storage room 
beside the communal meeting house, sharing my meals with different famiUes throughout 
the weeks. In the final year, during the seven month field season, I lived in "my own" 
thatched home with a nice view to the Tambopata river. In truth, the house belonged to 
my compadres in Infiemo who offered to let me stay in it while they were tending their 
farm on the other side of the river. I usually shared just one meal in the evenings with 
the family. Though I was near the school and community commons most of the time, for 


several weeks each year, I lived and shared meals with families "en la banda" (or the 
other side of the river). 

My days consisted of walking along the foot-trails in the community, pausing to 
talk with as many people as I had time for on the way to the one or two official 
interviews I planned for each day. My interviews took place in people's homes in the 
early mornings, midday over lunch, or at dusk. Occasionally, people preferred to talk 
with me in the communal meeting house, with a soft drink or beer at "El Volcan" (the 
community's only bodega), or, just twice, in my hut. I did not pay people in cash for 
their time in interviews with me, but I did offer various forms of in-kiad compensation. 
Usually, I gave toys, coloring books and crayons, clothes, and/or household items. 

I have 13 months of fieldwork in Infiemo, and a total of 1 12 household interviews 
(40 of them from the same household interviewed twice). This is a relatively small 
number, and obviously, I did not spend every day, or even every week, in structured 
uiterviews. Much of my time in the community consisted of talking to people in open 
conversations, hanging out to listen and watch, and simply participating in routine 
activities, like washing clothes, shelling brazil nuts, feeding chickens, caring for children, 
attending meetings, and preparing and eating meals. I spent more time with some 
families than with others, and these were evenly divided between Ese Eja and mestizos. 

Between the structured interviews and the daily routines, I also carried out several 
participatory types of research activities. These included working in small groups to map 
the commimity on large poster boards, locating collectively people's households, farms, 
and forest trails, and talking about different areas of communal resources, including 
brazil nuts, palm fruits, salt licks, etc. In addition to the participatory mapping, I also 


used free listing and pile sorting several times to gain preliminary understandings of 
people's ideas on various themes, including gender roles, and annual productive 
activities, the value of different wildlife species, and social networks. In another activity, 
I distributed cameras to key informants m the community and asked them to photograph 
various subjects, including things that make them proud, things they consider to be 
problems, and things they believe should be kept private from tourists. After processing 
the photographs, I returned the originals to the photographers, discussed the images with 
them, and kept the negatives for further analysis. Most of this data I used to help me 
learn more about the ethnographic context in which I was working, rather than as avenues 
to answer my specific questions about the impacts of tourism. 

In the third year, I also spent about a third of the time in the lodge. There, I talked 
with both the tourists and the staff, participating ui the daily operations and activities, and | 

paying special attention to how community members were interacting with the guests, 
and how they were coping with their dual responsibilities, both in the lodge and as 
members of the community. I talked extensively with tourists about their impressions of 
the lodge, though I did not interview them formally. Rather, I distributed written 
questionnaires, 180 of which were completed (80 in 1996, and 100 in 1998) asking them 
about their impressions of what they were seeing, and focusing particular attention on 
how they perceived the ethnicity of their local hosts, who they thought should be 
participating in the project, and what they thought about community-based ecotourism in 

In the first year of the research, when the lodge was little more than an idea, there 
was some significant confusion about what I was doing. Most people in Infiemo knew 

anthropologists had a penchant for asking a lot of questions, but usually these inquiries 
were related to native stories or myths, spiritual beliefs, vocabulary and syntax of the Ese 
Eja language, traditional uses of forest resources, or other cultural themes. I, on the 
other hand, was asking questions about tourism, which was disconcerting from the start 
because it seemed out of character for an anthropologist. Also, because people knew of 
my personal associations with Rainforest Expeditions, some members of the community 
expressed concern over my intentions and whether it would be safe to talk candidly with 
me. Overtime, as everyone gained a better idea of my interests, and especially as the 
level of trust grew, people to talk with me much more expansively and candidly about 
their interactions with Rainforest Expeditions and their feelings about the project. In the 
last months of the fieldwork, many community members were so eager to talk, they 
began scheduling interviews with me, reminding me how it important it was to keep track 
of certain things. 

In many ways, my role as an anthropologist in Infiemo was similar to that of a 
tourist. Though I lived in the community for weeks and months at a time, I was always 
more of an outsider than an insider. I was forever conscious then that I was very much a 
part of what I was trying to understand — ^that is, the changes in Infiemo brought on by 
tourists and other outsiders. Often, I felt I was in a hall of mirrors, watching the 
interactions between the locals and the visitors, while, at every turn, catching my own 
reflection. Many times, I would introduce myself to tourists, explaining that I was an 
anthropologist studying the impacts of tourism. Invariably, someone in the group would 
laugh, a bit self-consciously, and ask, "So, you'll be watching me?" Well, yes, I often 
thought, but I'll be trying to watch all of us, myself included. 


I found that few people admitted to the status of "tourist." Most preferred the idea 
of being a traveler, or one who is more intent than others to explore the real world behind 
the fake facade. This private and somehow more authentic area tourists often long to see 
is what Dean MacCannell, author of The Tourist, has called the "backstage." 

I remember a couple of guests in particular who flatly denied the "tourist" label. 
They were backpackers who passed through Tambopata in 1 996, stopping for the night in 
hifiemo's central commons (the area with the cormnunal meeting house, the school, and 
the soccer field). The President of Infiemo at the time, a young Ese Eja man, was a bit 
taken aback that the visitors had set up camp in the center of the community without prior 
notice. He waited for them to awake the next morning, before approaching to question 
their plans. Politely, he asked how they'd slept ("Were they cold?"), and then gently 
informed them that Infiemo was a private community-all tourists should check with the 
project office in Puerto Maldonado, or, alternatively, consult with the native federation, 
FENAMAD, for permission to stay. Obviously offended, one of the women crawled out 
of her tent, fmished twisting the lid back on her water bottle, and explained in broken 
Spanish, "Oh, but we're not tourists. We were just passing through for the night . . ." 

Ethical Considerations 

I have chosen to identify the name and location of the community as well as the 
name of its partner. Rainforest Expeditions. Though many anthropologists make the wise 
decision to hide location names in their study sites to protect people's privacy, I have 
decided that such an effort would make little sense in this study. So much marketing 
publicity has already been produced about Posada Amazonas in Infiemo that my efforts 
to keep the project unnamed would be futile. I have made a conscientious effort, 


however, to omit the names of all individuals involved in the project, including the 
owners and administrators of Rainforest Expeditions (though I do use pseudonyms). 

I have also avoided using the terms "subjects" and "informants" when referring to 
the people of Infiemo because both connote more authority than I had. Though I cannot 
deny the real economic, social, and cultural barriers that separated me from the people in 
Infiemo, no one willingly served as my "subject," and people "informed" me only when 
they chose to (and some chose not to). I have tried instead to be as specific as I can, 
without using names, about who spoke (a young Ese Eja man, an mother uninvolved in 
the project, a leader in the commimity, a respected elder, a new immigrant from the 
highlands), at what moment, (at the beginning of the project, when the fu-st tourists 
arrived), and in what setting (at the lodge, in the community, in Lima). 

Stakeholder Analysis 

In 1996, 1 lived in Infiemo for four months and began ethnographic research on 
the history and current situation of the community. I conducted a stakeholder analysis of 
the tourism project by interviewing members of Infiemo and representatives of outside 
organizations about their hopes, concems, and conflicting agendas surrounding the 
cooperative agreement between the community and Rainforest Expeditions. The field 
work in the first year was exploratory, and my goal was to get to know people in the 
community, and gain a sense of what people felt about the tourism project. 

In that first year, I wore three hats: one was volunteer intem for Conservation 
International (CI), the second was volunteer consultant to Rainforest Expeditions, and the 
third was doctoral student. My responsibility with CI was to carry out a stakeholder 


analysis.'* The Participatory Commxmity Planning office of CI had agreed to act in an 
advisory role to the joint venture in Infiemo, but before getting more involved, they 
wanted an understanding of v^hat different social groups within the community were 
thinking and saying. My job was to walk door-to-door in the community, and to talk with 
people about tourism. 

My role vis-a-vis Rainforest Expeditions was similar. The company wanted to be 
sure that people in the community knew about the project. When I arrived in May 1 996, 
I learned that the community's vote to sign the contract had been unanimous, but in fact, 
many people were ill-informed, or as in the case of most women, completely uninformed. 
The company also wanted to give people the chance to decide whether and how fhey 
would like to participate in the project. 

In sum, my role the fnst year was to carry out exploratory research with the 
applied task of coordinating a process of participatory planning among the members of 
the community, Rainforest Expeditions, Conservation International and non- 
governmental organizations involved in the project as advisors. 

As I began the stakeholder analysis, I was especially interested in understanding 
how the variables that distinguished stakeholders within Infiemo, namely ethnicity, 
gender, age, resource use, and geographical location, correlated with varying opinions 
about the project and varying levels of involvement with Rainforest Expeditions. In 
addition to talking with stakeholders in the community, I also wanted to learn the 
opinions of those who had influence from outside the community. The questions were: 

a) what are the concerns and hopes of everyone involved? 

" My work with the Peru Program at CI was sponsored by the Managing Ecosystems and Resources with 
Gender Emphasis (MERGE) Program at the University of Florida. 


b) what are the alliances and conflicts between those who are involved? 

c) how are alliances and conflicts changing as the project develops? 

I used a series of participatory tools within the community to understand 
stakeholder interests and concerns within the community. These included focus groups, 
mapping, freelists and pile sorts. I used the resuhs of pile-sorting the names of men and 
women in the community to organize focus groups to talk about the project. ^ Essentially, 
I was interested in knowing women's opinions about which women "belonged together" 
(however they defined that) and men's opinions about which men "belonged together." I 
wanted to be sure the groups I was organizing were men and women who felt 
comfortable talking among one another. I also wanted to reveal "clusters" of people 
(people who normally associated with each other) in the community for future sampling 
purposes. After interpreting the data with ANTHROPAC (Borgatti 1 992), I did two 
things: first, I made two maps of the community showing the geographic locations of 
households (one map showed the women's locations, and the other showed the men's), 
then I color-coded the clusters of men and women to show how their associations with 
each other were distributed geographically. This information was critical as I made my 
daily trips to households for interviews, conversations, and focus groups. The second 
step was to overlay the clusters onto a genealogy chart of the community. This helped me 
understand how social networks among men and women were linked to familial ties. 

^ I wrote the names of men and women in the conmranity, and then asked the women to sort the cards with 
women's names, and men to sort the cards with men's names. I had first asked the president of the 
commmiity for a list of all male and female adults residents (he gave me a list of 98 men and 56 women). 
Unfortunately, the Hsts were not exhaustive: one problem I discovered later was that the list of men 
included both single and married men, whereas the Ust of women included only married women and a 
relatively small proportion of the single women. 


For the focus groups I gathered four to seven community members at a time to 
talk about the project, relying a series of hand-drawn posters to characterize various 
phases of the tourism project. Each meeting lasted 1-2 hours, and the objective was both 
to explain the project plans m detail (especially because so many people were ill- 
informed, even though the contract with Rainforest Expeditions had aheady been 
signed),^ to listen to people's opinions and expectations. Specific questions were: What 
do you think about the project? What do you expect you might gain or lose from this 
project? What are your concerns or fears? Would you like to work in tourism? Why or 
why not? 

Outside the community, I also interviewed representatives from different 
stakeholder groups, including non-profit conservation and development organizations, 
grassroots organizations, government ministries for agriculture and tourism, competitor 
ecotourism companies, and other researchers familiar with Infiemo. With these 
stakeholders, I asked a series of questions about their opinions of ecotourism in general, 
and their specific concerns and hopes for the joint venture between Rainforest 
Expeditions and hifiemo. 

In the first year, I learned several lessons about carrying out a stakeholder 
analysis. One is that conflict is intrinsic to the process. The goal of stakeholder analysis, 
literally, is to define differences in what people have "at stake" relative to a particular 
project or policy (Grimble and Chan 1994). As I gathered this kind of information, I 
learned not only about the opinions of the people I was interviewing, but also their 
opinions about what other stakeholders were doing and thinking. In practice, this meant 

* Many people asked what seemed like the most basic questions, such as "What is a lodge? and "What 
exactly do you mean by 'tourism'"? 


that I was creating opportunities for people to talk about each other. In the 75-page 

written report, I was essentially highlighting and making explicit the very things people 

would have preferred to keep discrete. 

When I returned to the field in 1997 and distributed the report to community 

leaders and other stakeholders, I received some incisive criticisms, some suggestmg that 

my report resembled a gossip column. One anthropologist wrote, 

"So much of peoples' reactions are based upon perceptions without clear 
foundations or information. That is evident in your report, where so much that is 
said is so clearly gossip. I believe all of the actors have some responsibility for 
this situation, which could hardly be worse than it is now. However, your report, 
in my opinion, only exacerbates that situation, because so much of what is 
reported is simply gossip (from all sides) . . ." 

A representative from a nongovernmental organization sent me a letter a couple of 
months after I had returned from the field. She suggested that I had simply gotten the 
facts wrong and, in the process, damaged the reputation of her organization. She wrote: 
"I did see a short section [of your report], which is grossly inaccurate, and has caused 
considerable complications for . . . [our organization] in Infiemo. [We] will have to 
make a formal response to Lifiemo concerning the allegations which were made." 

On a more positive note, the fact that people were vocal about their concerns was 
very useful and relevant to the research. People followed up with me after reading the 
report with comments like, "I disagree with what you wrote here on p. 56. The way 
you've portrayed it is not the way things happened. Here is how things really happened . 
. ." These kinds of comments proved to be extremely valuable as checks to the validity 
of my findings, and as counterpoints to my interpretations. In fact, the follow-up 
comments were in many ways more valuable than the initial interviews because they 


captured people's opinions in ways that were more candid. Finally, the advantage of 
producing a report about preliminary findings before publishing anything that could have 
reached a larger audience was that I offered people the opportunity to clarify or defend 
their position. 

Process aside, what I learned from the stakeholder analysis was that conflicts 
outside the community, usually on the part of stakeholder groups who wanted to help, 
often exacerbated conflicts within the community, rather than provided much guidance. 
For example, tour companies who were vying for the same ecotourism market had the 
members of Infiemo asking, "Who should we deal with?" Nongovernmental 
organizations were competing, too, over the role of who should advise the community in 
their dealings with Rainforest Expeditions. The members of Infiemo seemed generally 
open to working with any group willing to offer support. However, once they became 
enmeshed in the political relations among stakeholders outside the community, they were 
resigned to take sides. The result was that outside relations were replayed inside the 

I also learned fi-om the initial stakeholder analysis that Infiemo was home to few 
"social facts." As a student, I had been exposed to the idea of history as interpretation, 
but I had not fully grasped the implications of the concept for writing ethnography. I 
went to Infiemo expecting to get "to the bottom of things," squarely linking the 
community's history with the events, meetings, and debates that had led up to their 
agreement with Rainforest Expeditions. I expected to find differences of opinions 
between stakeholders with regard to the project; after all, opinions were opinions, and, of 
course, they would be subjective. But I also expected to leam about the history of 


Infiemo as a fairly straightforward series of events and key figures that had flowed, 
unswervingly, into the present. As I pieced together people's accounts of the history of 
Infiemo, I learned how wrong I was. 

In fact, the more time I spent in Infiemo, and the more I talked to people, the 
more I learned, but the less I knew — or really knew~for certain. A friend working on 
his dissertation admitted to a similar feelmg: "Spend a week in a place," he said, "and 
you can write a book about it. Spend a few months there, and you might be able to 
squeeze out an article. But live there for a year, and you'll never feel capable of writing 

This msight aroused suspicion in me when I heard other researchers, project 
managers, and politicians, especially those who had spent very little time in the 
community, speaking^or the people of Infiemo. With my own experience of how 
difficult it was to gain consensus on almost any issue in Infiemo, I began to filter more 
carefully the recommendations of people who presented themselves as knowers or 
experts of Infiemo. And as I became more aware of other people's biases, I began to see 
my own more clearly. Though all of us who are connected to the community —the 
researchers, project directors, tour operators and tourists, indigenous leaders, and others- 
have diverging perspectives, the contradictions between us present not a problem so 
much as an opportunity to piece together what we have observed and perceived, and then 
ultimately gain a more nuanced view of how things are (or how they were) in Infiemo. 
Here is where the "Rashomon effect," or the fact that the same event can generate 
significantly different explanations or meanings for people, seems especially relevant. 


The inter-subjectivity of cultural interpretation, and the fact that different 
researchers perceive things differently, need not preclude us from writing about what we 
do learn and then cross-checking our findings with others. What is especially critical in 
this process of interpretation through triangulation, as it would be in any science, is a 
discussion of methodology, or how we came to know what we know. Because the 
instruments of measurement in anthropology are often our own observations, the threats 
to validity are inextricably linked to personal biases. Here, then, before I move to the 
analyses in the next chapters are some of the main biases to consider in my own work: 

1) Before I began the research, I was associated personally with Rainforest 
Expeditions. This meant that people who were opposed to the project might have been 
wary to share their most critical opinions with me during the first year. In subsequent 
years, my conversations and interactions with people became increasingly candid. 

2) I spoke only Spanish in my interviews, not Ese Eja. This meant that some of 
my interviews, particularly those with native elders m the Infiemo, were limited in the 
depth of our conversations, and in the nuance of my understanding. 

3)1 lived in Infiemo over several years, but only during the months of May to 
December. This meant that I saw what was happening during the height of the tourism 
season, but I missed other important moments in the annual cycle. 

4) I interviewed only adults between 1 8 and 50. Though I spent countless hours 
with children and elders, I did not include them in more formal interviews. Therefore, 
my understandmg of how they feel about the tourism project is limited. 


On a hot afternoon in late April 1998, a canoe-load of tourists escaped the dust 
and noise of Puerto Maldonado and motored up the Tambopata River of southeastern 
Peru. Turning each bend, they carefully combed the tree-lined banks for signs of 
capybara, caiman, or maybe just a bright and sallying flycatcher. The tourists had 
journeyed to the Department ofMadre de Dios, site of the Bahuaja-Sonene National 
Park, and home to more species of plants and animals per square kilometer than has 
been recorded anywhere else on earth. Peruvians like to boast that this lush land of 
tropical forest is the biodiversity capital of the world. 

After three hours of travel past small farms, groups of children playing in the 
river, women washing clothes, and a couple of 16hp taxi boats loaded down with papaya, 
manioc, and plantain, the guests arrived at a large bend in the river, their final stopping 
point On one side lay a large beach named Hermosa Grande; on the other, high above, 
and hidden by a wall of trees was Posada Amazonas, a newly built 24-room ecotourism 
lodge crafted from thatch and bamboo, and furnished with a few comforts from home. 
Waiting to greet the visitors were Ese Eja and mestizo members of the Native Community 
oflnfierno and their new business partners. Rainforest Expeditions. 

The Joint Venture 

Just two years before tourists in that story arrived to Tambopata, in May of 1996, 
the members oflnfierno and the tourism company had signed a legally binding contract 



to begin building and co-managing Posada Amazonas. Calling their joint venture the 
"Ke'eway Association in Participation," the partners agreed to split profits 60% to the 
community, and 40% to the company, and to divide the management fifty-fifty. A critical 
tenet of the agreement was that community members should be actively involved in the 
enterprise, not only as staff, but also as owners, planners, and administrators; fiirther, they 
should join Rainforest Expeditions in making decisions about the ftiture of the company 
as well as providing services for tourists. The partners also agreed that after 20 years, the 
entire operation — the lodge and everything in it, short-wave radio, fijirniture, kitchen 
ware, power generators, etc. —will belong to Infierno, and community members will 
become sole proprietors and managers. 

As long as they remain partners, the members of Infierno are obligated to 
maintain an exclusive contract with Rainforest Expeditions.' No one from the 
community can strike a deal with a competitor company to build a second lodge, nor can 
any individual independently create an additional ecotourism project within communal 
territory. Also, outside visitors must seek permission from the Association before using 
ecotourism infrastructure in the community, including the lodge itself, trails through the 
forest, the catamaran in the oxbow lake, and the 40-meter canopy tower (see Appendix B 
for more information about the lodge infrastructure and typical itinerary). 

Though tliis was the original plan, the terms of the agreement changed in 1999 when the two partners 
received financial support from a Peru-Canada bilateral agency. As a condition for accepting financial 
assistance from Peru-Canada, Rainforest Expeditions ceded its portion of the infrastructure to the 
community. This means that community members now own the lodge (and everything in it), and after 20 
years, they will not need to buy out Rainforest Expeditions' portion. Meanwhile, the joint venture with 
Rainforest Expeditions remains exclusive, meaning tlie community cannot drop Rainforest Expeditions as 
its partner and then sign on with anotlier company to co-manage the lodge (see Appendix A). 


The Decision to Collaborate 

Accounts of which partner initiated the agreement are mixed. Each side credits 
the other, but the consensus from outsiders is that Rainforest Expeditions was the first to 
was signed, and by 1995, these people had begun lobbying for a lodge in their own 
community. As is the case with so many community projects, a few individuals spoke for 
the majority. According to minutes of a general assembly meeting in which the owners of 
Rainforest Expeditions met with the community, three leaders of Infierno-all of them 
Ese Eja- spoke in favor of the project (CNI Libro de Actas, October and November 

Each partner had plenty of incentives to cooperate. Rainforest Expeditions (RFE) 
had been working in the ecotourism business since the early nineties. Their first lodge, 
five hours upriver from Infierno, is the Tambopata Research Center, which began as a 
research station for a project to study the reproductive behavior of large macaws and to 
set up artificial nestboxes. (Holle and Nycander 1996; Munn 1994). As the lodge located 
nearest to the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, and the only permanent facility situated 
near a now-famous macaw clay lick, the Tambopata Research Center was already 
experiencing great success in the ecotourism market when they began negotiating with 

As a company, Rainforest Expeditions had received good marks from local 
environmentalists before the agreement with Infierno. They had played an active role in 
regional planning for the Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone, and they were more 
conscientious than most local companies about hiring Peruvian nationals to fill all staff 
positions, including guides. In fact, until 1997, Rainforest Expeditions was the only 


company in the region to hire Peruvian guides. Other lodges were hiring foreign 
naturaUsts on work-study agreements (i.e., foreigners guide tourists in exchange for 
lodging and board, and the opportunity to carry out research in surrounding forests). 

What Rainforest Expeditions sought in approaching the community was the 
opportunity to create an overnight resting place for their tourists as they made the eight 
hour journey to the Tambopata Research Center from the airport in Puerto Maldonado. 
Before investing in Posada Amazonas, the company was housing their guests in 
competitor lodges, including Explorer's Inn, and they needed another option somewhere 
halfway between the airport and the Research Center (see Figure 4). Although they could 
have selected any one of many communities that fringe the banks of the Tambopata 
River, they chose Infierno specifically for two reasons: it is the only native titled 
community in an area dominated by colonist communities, and it is a prime site for 
wildlife viewing. 

The first reason is linked to an expectation of what tourists traveling to the 
Amazon might want to see. Following on the cue of travel magazines and other popular 
media, many tourists in fact expect to find idyllic villages where native peoples live in 
relative seclusion from the modern world (save for the tourist boats), and are open to 
sharing the serenity of their nature-based lives with visitors. Though the Amazon is a 
place of great complexity: of urban areas with schools, churches, and offices, of cattle 
ranchers and farmers, politicians and oil executives, families of mixed Japanese and 
Amerindian heritage, men and women gathered beneath thatched homes watching the 
World Cup from their portable televisions, the ecotourism industry rarely has much to say 
about these facets of the Amazon. Instead, a different image is often projected, one of a 


place suspended in time, unfettered by modernity. And within this image lies the 
indigenous "noble savage," living harmoniously with his surroundings. A quick scan of 
the popular travel literature suggests that the link between "indigenous" and "nature" is 
helping to fuel the ecotourism boom in the Amazon. 


30 mit^yli^i fey iilMm 

mmm immtm^ 


Figure 4: Eco-lodges on the Tambopata River: The Native Community of Infierno is 
situated midpoint between the airport in Puerto Maldonado and Rainforest Expeditions' 
privately owned lodge, the Tambopata Research Center. 


The Ke'eway Association has avoided blatant attempts to sell these stereotypes of 
Amazonian culture, but so far the marketing materials aimed at tourists have highlighted 
the "native, Ese Eja" and sidestepped altogether the fact that Infierno is a mixed ethnic 
community. For reasons I will discuss fijrther in Chapter 6, indigenous rather than mixed 
communities seemed to be an easier sell to tourists hungry for authentic and traditional 
experiences. For these reasons, Infierno was undoubtedly the best choice among 
potential partners for Rainforest Expeditions. 

A second reason Rainforest Expeditions chose Infierno is because the community 
boasts so much wildlife. Two spectacular and rare species seen often in Infierno are 
Harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja) and Giant river otters {Pteronura brasiliensis). Together 
with the jaguar and caiman, the Harpy and Giant otter represent the most important 
predators at the top of the food chain in Amazonian forests, and they are key attractions 
for ecotourists. In addition to the Harpy, several other large raptor nests have been found 
within Infierno, including one Crested eagle nest {Morphnus guianensis), two Ornate 
Hawk Eagle {Spizaetus ornatus) nests, and one King Vulture {Sarcoramphus papa) nest. 
All of these were located by members of the community. 

An added bonus to the raptors as tourist attractions in Infierno is that they have 
long nesting periods. Harpy Eagles can nest for as long as 18 months (Alvarez 1997). 
This characteristic makes these large birds especially good for tourism; the longer the 
nesting period, the greater the number of tourists who will have the possibility of seeing 
one of them, and maybe even a chick, active in the nest. 

It is no accident that Infierno is the site of many large raptor nests. The 
community does not necessarily have more raptors per square kilometer, but they do have 


more knowledge about where to find them. A whole community of scouts in Infierno 
collect brazil nuts annually, and therefore they frequent areas where large raptors are 
prone to nest. Because brazil nut trees are dispersed throughout the forest, it is common 
for people in Infierno to walk around with their heads up, looking for falling nuts, and in 
so doing, they are more likely to notice nests (Plana, personal communication). 

From the perspective of the community, ecotourism represented a possible 
development alternative. Because Infierno is in the buffer zone of Bahuaja-Sonene 
National Park, people said they felt limited, both in terms of what they could extract from 
the forest, and how much they could expand agriculturally. Ecotourism seemed like a 
good opportunity. One man who was a founding member of the community explained, 
"We do not have many development options, but we do have flora and fauna. Ecotourism 
can sustain us for awhile." 

People also described the agreement as a way to gain a foothold in the ecotourism 
industry. Ecotourism has existed in Tambopata since the 1970s (see Chapter 2), but has 
really begun to prosper in the 1990s. Now an average of 40-50 tourists arrive to Puerto 
Maldonado every day, and boatloads of them pass before people's thatched homes along 
the Tambopata River morning and afternoon. In fact, the movement of tourists is such a 
reliable, audible, and visible fact of life in Infierno that people can tell the time of day 
just by checking which boat is heading up or down river. The opportunity to participate 
actively in this daily ritual, and to benefit directly from it, is what many community 
members hoped to gain by signing the contract with Rainforest Expeditions. 




TsBiibopaia Itiver 

s^^^fepsasjas irei 

Figure 5: The Native Community of Infierno and site of Posada Amazonas 

Though they signed the contract, not everyone in Infierno is obligated to 
participate in tourism. The community comprises about 80 families whose homes are 
spread over 10,000 hectares of forest straddling the Tambopata River, The lodge itself is 
located a half-day's paddle by dug-out canoe from the center of the community, and 


because of this distance, tourism does not necessarily represent a direct intrusion on 
people's lives (see Figure 5). 

New Attention from Outsiders 

Since its inception, Posada Amazonas has drawn positive attention from scholars, 
journalists, practitioners, and activists in conservation and development. A vice-president 
of Conservation International hailed the lodge as a potential model both for collaborating 
with local people in protected areas and for making ecotourism truly participatory. In 
April 2000, CFs Ecotravel Center awarded Posada Amazonas the prize for "Excellence 
in Ecotourism." The Ecotourism Society has highlighted the project as an example of 
how joint ventures between community ecotourism projects and pre-existing ecotourism 
business ventures can be a successful approach to ensure the success of community 
ecotourism projects (Epler Wood 1998). In 1999, the Inter- American Development Bank 
invited the Rainforest Expeditions to present its experiences in the Ke-eway Association 
with Infierno to an ecotourism development policy forum attended by several of the 
largest U.S. environmental organizations in Washington, DC. 

The Ke'eway Association has also been featured in articles appearing in popular 
international magazines, as well as on the front-page of Peru's most widely-ready 
newspaper, El Comercio. The British Broadcasting Company (BBC), and other major 
film crews have filmed in the community, and, in 1998, a three-hour documentary 
entitled, "Candamo: The Last Uninhabited Forest," produced by an independent 
filmmaker, featured footage of Infierno and the three main protagonists were from the 
community. The show was aired on primetime national television in Peru and 


subsequently released to nearly a hundred broadcasters abroad, including the Discovery 
Channel in the United States. 

The project has gained so much attention from the media that one of the owners 
mused, "When we began negotiating with the community, they laughed; when we started 
building the lodge, they criticized; now that we are operating, they say nothing. But the 
journalists do . . ." Indeed, over the course of the research, I encountered seven 
anthropologists, five biologists, four filmmakers, including the BBC and the Discovery 
Channel, four volunteers, and six nongovernmental organizations. This is all in one 
community with 80 households. In one day alone, three film crews were roaming about 

One experience in particular really brought home for me the public distinction 
Infierno had achieved on so many levels. In 1999, the community welcomed 
representatives fi"om an Aguaruna indigenous community of northern Peru. The visitors 
were part of a grassroots organization that was dedicated to community development, and 
they had traveled a great distance to Infierno to learn more about ecotourism. During the 
first meeting, in which the Aguaruna presented their own experiences in raising wildlife 
in captivity, I noticed that two of the guests kept glancing over at Miguel. I wondered for 
a moment if Miguel had said or done something to offend them. When the meeting was 
over, I walked over to the two men to see if I could ask some questions. We talked 
amiably for about fifteen minutes, and then they became silent. I assumed they were 
tired of talking with me, and as I was about to thank them for their time, one leaned over, 
and in the shy manner that overcomes people in the presence of fame, asked me if Miguel 
was the actor who had appeared in the film "Candamo." I laughed, relieved that that was 


their only concern, and said, "No, that's Francisco, but they do look a lot alike." Then, 
amazingly, they asked if I thought it would be OK ("esta bien?") to meet-simply meet- 
Miguel! I realized then that the members of Infierno had moved so much into the 
national spotlight that they could legitimately claim celebrity status. 

Aside from new popularity, Infierno' s tourism project has also received 
substantial financial support from a Peru-Canada bilateral agreement and the MacArthur 
Foundation, both of which helped finance construction of the lodge and subsequently 
supported community training (see Appendix A). In 1999, the World Bank gave a 
substantial grant to finance the development of a handicrafts project. Other potential 
sources of funding have expressed keen interest in supporting ecotourism-based 
development in Infierno. The project generally offers so much promise (as do several 
other community-based ecotourism projects in Latin America) that international support 
has been relatively abundant and forthcoming. 

Opposition to the Project 

Posada Amazonas has not received the applause of everyone. In fact, for some 
critics, the lodge represents yet another chapter in a long history of capitalist exploitation 
of and among native peoples. For these skeptics, a private company like Rainforest 
Expeditions seems the worst potential partner for Infierno, even with the promise of full 
and equal participation. Anthropologists and indigenous rights activists, in particular, 
were loathe to embrace any kind of capitalist investment in Infierno. This is with good 
reason, for throughout other places in the Amazon, and over many decades, private 
capitalists have benefited the most from the Amazon, either through rubber, timber, 
quinine, animal pelts, gold, cattie, oil, or some other resource. Local peoples, meanwhile, 
have faced decimation fi-om disease, forced enslavement, a dwindling resource base, and 


marginalization from homelands. In Madre de Dios alone, extractivist industries in 
cinchona bark, rubber, animal pelts, gold, and timber had already devastated the Ese Eja 
indigenous population long before Rainforest Expeditions came onto the scene 
(Alexiades 1999). History had provided enough testimony against the win-win prospect 
of coupling of private companies with local communities. 

Within the realm of capitalism, tourism has been especially insidious. 
Anthropologists, in particular, rarely have anything nice to say about the impacts of 
tourism on local communities (this is in stark contrast with what many have to say about 
ecotourism). This is with good reason, for tourism has been linked to commoditized and 
contrived displays of culture (Urry 1989, Nunez 1989; Greenwood 1989), uneven 
development (Erisman 1989), social conflict (Mansperger 1989), disruption of local 
livelihoods (Seiler-Baldinger 1988), and the degradation of scarce resources (Giannecchi 

Overall, wariness against the investment of private companies in local 
communities seemed wise in the face of overwhelming evidence, but it also presented a 
dilemma: if ecotourism could indeed be a viable option for relatively low-impact 
development in Infierno, how could the community create their own ecotourism project 
without help in gaining links to external markets? Case studies from the Ecotourism 
Society have shown that most community tourism ventures do not meet people's 
economic expectations simply because they lack marketing, and not enough tourists visit 
to offer enough economic returns on local investments (see Bennett 1999; Rodriguez 
1999; Schalken 1999). Typically, the community makes money in the beginning from 
curiosity seekers, and then the flow stops, as does everyone's initiative. 


Non-profit organizations (NGOs) and government agencies come to mind when 
thinking of appropriate partners for community-based ecotourism. Though NGOs may 
have the right focus on long term community welfare, private companies are typically 
more efficient and sawier in a market sense. In a 1998 publication, Megan Epler-Wood, 
president of the Ecotourism Society, summarized this point, "Joint ventures between 
community ecotourism projects and pre-existing ecotourism business ventures have been 
repeatedly underlined as the most successful approach to insure the success of 
community ecotourism projects" (p. 25). This is because the businesses bring the 
marketing savvy to the partnerships, and the communities provide the local expertise. As 
one tourist visiting Posada Amazonas remarked, "Generally someone from the outside 
with education and experience is needed to make a project like this successful. Adding a 
profit incentive can help." 

It was precisely Rainforest Expeditions' quest for profit that sparked so much 
opposition. A representative from a local conservation NGO argued, "There are inherent 
contradictions between the principles of Ese Eja culture and Rainforest Expeditions. The 
Ese Eja have an ethos of sharing, not of ripping off" Though incendiary, this comment 
captured well the sentiment of many scholars and activists who maintain that traditional 
societies are irrevocably changed when they become newly (or more intensively) 
integrated with the market economy. 

Critics also forecasted negative impacts on the economy of Infierno. Many 
argued that ecotourism would compel people to give up their traditional livelihoods in 
farming and extraction, and to become increasingly dependent on wage labor. Though 
they would begin to earn wages, they would also forfeit their subsistence base and thus 


expose themselves to economic shock when the tourism industry hit a bust. One person 
commented, "Wage labor is a step down from where they are." 

Further opposition to the Ke'eway Association arose from fear that ecotourism 
would erode cultural identity and overpower traditional institutions in Infierno. One 
anthropologist questioned, "Why change the Ese Eja to be capitalists? It will change their 
identity. It's horrible to destroy a culture." This particular comment captured a common 
assumption that tourism would cause people in Infierno to become more like their Lima- 
based partners. Critics predicted "acculturation" or loss of identity in Infierno because 
they believed that the exchange of information, ideas, and practices between the two 
partners would flow in a single direction, from the company to the community, and not 
the other way around. 

A widespread assumption among critics was that people in Infierno had blindly 
accepted, and not chosen, the agreement with Infierno. The critiques, though emanating 
from concern for the community, served to stir up doubts in people's sense of their own 
capacities. Compounding these doubts was the belief that, in fact, they were not capable. 
Yu et al. (1997), for example, wrote, "The necessities of the tourist trade (language 
abilities, specialized vocational skills, and structured work routines) make it difficult for 
even the best-intentioned tourist lodges to provide much direct employment to local 
peoples in the Madre de Dios region" (p. 135). 

The Tambopata river port became a cauldron for rumors in the first year. The 
port is the entry point for goods brought in from Infierno to sell, and it is the exit point for 
the boatloads of tourists who arrive daily to visit one of the lodges on the Tambopata 
River. People who lived and worked in the Tambopata River port in 1996 relied on 


gossip and rumor to influence local perceptions about the project, even among members 
of the community. Several owners of the dry goods stores and kiosks in the port said 
they heard stories every day about how Rainforest Expeditions was taking advantage of 
the community, and that the people of Infierno had been easily fooled by the company. 

As outsiders who were concerned about the project engaged in discussions with 
Rainforest Expeditions, the members of Infierno did not remain silent. Many tried to 
defend their decision, and to claim their own agency in making the deal with the 
company. One of the younger men who was actively involved in the project said, "We 
are owners of the community, and we have a right to decide for ourselves. Other people 
like to take control ... I think that is because we are not united and well organized among 
ourselves." A vocal few wanted to let outsiders know they had not been coerced or duped 
into signing the agreement. One man explained, "We agreed to build the lodge to ensure 
a future for our children." Another commented with some frustration, "How are we going 
to progress if they tell us we can't do it? We're natives, but we can think like other 
people. " Opposition to the project also engendered cynicism, as one man observed, "Now 
that we have formed our own company, they get involved, and put obstacles before us. 
But before this, they didn't pay much attention at all." 

Even people in favor of the project were worried that Rainforest Expeditions was 
moving too fast. Long before the first floorboard of Posada Amazonas had been laid, 
tourists began visiting a Harpy eagle nest in the community, and the Rainforest 
Expeditions' marketing team in Lima began reaching out to tour operators in Europe and 
the United States. The message from nongovernmental organizations was to slow down, 
give the community more time. At a local restaurant in Puerto Maldonado, on a poster 


that read, "Put the brakes on rainforest destruction!" someone scratched out "destruction" 
and wrote "Expeditions." 

Within the community, some people were anxious to move faster. They had been 
dedicating their time, labor, and hope to getting the tourism project up and operating. 
Why was it taking so long, and how much longer before they would begin to see some 
returns on their investment? Meanwhile the company was under extreme pressure, as 
tourists were already booked to arrive in the coming months, and the lodge was not yet 

Getting Started 

It is true that in the first year, the community was ill-prepared for Posada 
Amazonas. In interviews just two months after the agreement, fully half the community, 
namely the women, knew very little about the fact that their husbands, sons, and brothers 
had signed a contract with Rainforest Expeditions. Many people, both men and women, 
were confused about the exact terms of the agreement and how it might affect their lives. 
Fortunately, outside support was forthcoming. Representatives from several organizations 
in the region as well as legal consultants affiliated with the local indigenous federation, 
FENAMAD (Federacion Nativa de Madre de Dios), stepped in to help community 
members interpret the details and legal implications of the contract. They raised specific 
concerns over the exclusivity of Rainforest Expeditions in the community (CNI Libro de 
Actas, November 1995). 

Within the community, people who were involved with Rainforest Expeditions 
fi"om the beginning acted as promoters, keeping others informed and involved. In one 
activity, project leaders walked from home to home in Infierno, carrying large, laminated 
posters with photographs and drawings to explain plans for the lodge and the different 


ways in which people could participate.^ Also within the community, a ten-person 
ecotourism committee called the Comite de Control was elected to collaborate with the 
company in making decisions for the project, and to report to the council of leaders and 
other members of the community during general assembly meetings. 

A key task for the Comite de Control in the beginning was to encourage 
involvement in the construction of Posada Amazonas. The Comite organized communal 
work parties of people who volunteered their labor for a week at a time in rotation. The 
ensuing months of work were intensive. Community members cleared 1.5 hectares of 
forest, and then began weaving and laying 18,000 panels of palm thatch, hauling 400- 
pound posts from the river, nailing at lest 8,000 floorboards, cutting several kilometers of 
trails through primary forest, and engaging in countless other strenuous tasks. 

Though the agreement had been signed by a majority vote, many community 
members were hesitant to get involved. "We do not have time to participate," one man 
pointed out, "If we have no farm, we have no life." Some people were willing to 
participate, but only after their fields had been prepared and planted. Still others planned 
to wait and watch what happened to the first few before committing themselves. 

For those who did get involved, the sacrifices were sometimes more than just a 
matter of time. One man who was working with a salary as a coordinator for the project 
was accused of stealing project funds for personal profit. "It really hurt me what they 
said," he remembered in an interview a year later. Another man who was heavily 
involved told me he often felt ostracized by his neighbors in the community who 

These were the same posters I used in the focus group interviews for the stakeholder analysis (see Chapter 


perceived him as "mamon" (roughly translated as "brown-noser") for Rainforest 
Expeditions. ■^ 

Since building the lodge, participation has come in many forms. Some community 
members work as wage laborers in the lodge-cooking, driving boats, cleaning rooms, 
and practicing as apprentice guides; others participate by selling foods, materials, or 
handicrafts; and a handfixl play a backstage role of coordinating lodge operations and 
handling management decisions in partnership with Rainforest Expeditions. 

Since the lodge has opened, members of the Comite have dedicated many more 
hours — as volunteers — ^to the project. Their role has been to remain informed of tourist 
activities, finances, infrastructure changes, personnel matters, and management decisions. 
They often raise concerns about their abilities and skills, as they are acutely aware of 
their responsibility as interlocutors between the community and Rainforest Expeditions. 
They are especially concerned about how to get more people to participate. At a meeting 
one year after the lodge opened, they met to discuss how to increase community 
participation in the business. Some of their ideas were to organize field trips to the lodge, 
to invite people to work in the logistics end of operations in Puerto Maldonado, and to 
show videos in the community about ecotourism. 

The Challenge of "Fifty-Fifty" 

The Ke'eway Association is an innovative concept, particularly because it entails 
joint decision making between a private company and a local community. So far, 
however, the community's participation in management has been relatively passive 
compared to Rainforest Expeditions' take-charge approach. In the first few months, 

^ These kinds of criticisms came from outside the community as well. Some people working in NGOs who 
were opposed to the project characterized community members who were involved with Rainforest 


several leaders in the community complained that they did not really know what was 
happening. One complaint was that they were not sure how many tourists were passing 
through, or how much the community was earning. 

The lopsided participation has prevailed not necessarily because the company is 
stingy with its power or disrespectful of community rights. One of the obstacles to equal 
participation has been sheer lack of experience. Community members are still uncertain 
what full participation entails, or how it differs from simply working at the lodge. They 
hear the words, "you are owners," but they grapple with the meaning. So often in their 
history, the responsibilities of conceptualizing, planning, and decision-making have been 
left to outsiders. Without first hand experience, people have felt limited in their own 
ability to contribute. 

Compounding the lack of experience is a general complacence with social roles. 
Conditioned to believe in class/race hierarchies between the educated elite fi'om Lima and 
subsistence producers from the Amazon, many community members have found it 
difficult to interact with their partners as equals. This should not be surprising since 
Rainforest Expeditions is, in fact, more powerful than the community both economically 
and politically. These deeply entrenched power differences cannot be dissolved from one 
day to the next simply because a legal agreement has been signed. 

The owners of the company are as cognizant as their most scathing critics that 
participation in the project has been far from equal. Just weeks after the lodge opened to 
the arrival of the first group, the project director from Rainforest Expeditions declared 
himself nearly burned out. While acknowledging people's tremendous investment of 
labor, he felt he had been carrying the management load himself, and vowed that he 

Expeditions as untrustworthy and not representative of tlie community. 


would quit unless more community members began participating. In an 
uncharacteristically tired voice, he explained, "I realized I had invested everything in the 
community and in the project— my whole life. But I felt abandoned, like my partners 
wanted me to pull it all together." 

Only one year later, the load has lessened for Rainforest Expeditions, and their 
partners have become more active, not only as laborers, but also as decision makers. In 
general, community members are more aware of their status and privilege as partners. 
Unlike in the first year, everyday discourse in Infierno now reveals a sense of ownership. 
In interviews, community members preface many of their opinions and comments about 
Posada Amazonas with the phrase, "Because it is ours . . ." One participant described 
Posada Amazonas as unusual because "in other places, the people are employees; here, 
we are the owners." 

For a few, this sense of ownership came the very afternoon the agreement was 
signed, but for most, it came only once the project was up and running, and after they had 
invested their own energy, time, and hope in creating it. For some families, participation 
may never come. Those who have become actively involved have begun to interact with 
company staff from Rainforest Expeditions differently. Though initially hesitant to treat 
their partners as equals rather than as employers, doubting their own abilities and 
strengths, now community members are more confident. One guide from Lima, after 
joining a Comite de Control meeting remarked, "I felt like I was sitting in a meeting with 
the Board of Directors." In addition to becoming more confident, many community 
members have begun to recognize that they are knowledgeable in ways their well- 
educated partners could never be. To a reporter for the Lima-based newspaper. El 


Comercio, the director from Rainforest Expeditions said, "When we get stuck in a 
discussion about something that seems to have no obvious resolution, I leave it in their 
hands, knowing they'll make the right decision. Many times, [their solution] is much 
more severe and effective than what I would have decided" (Ribeyro 1996:A1). A 
member of the Comite explained later, "they have theories, but we have the experience." 

These changes in perception have occurred on both sides. Despite fears that 
Rainforest Expeditions would irrevocably change the community, so far the learning has 
gone both ways. From the first year to the third, particularly in how they interact with 
community members in decision making, the owners have changed considerably. In the 
first year, the project director had the habit of treating community members as employees 
rather than as partners. Accustomed to working at an urban pace, he often struggled to 
pause and listen. Now, he asks questions, consciously treating community members as 
colleagues. "We used to tell them," he conceded "but now we listen, leave more of the 
decisions to them." 

The company has also learned that participation is more than just a marketable 
phrase for brochures, but also a necessity for the success of the lodge. Quhe literally, 
Rainforest Expeditions could not have created Posada Amazonas without the 
community's participation. During the initial collaboration, the owners often advised 
their partners to think like businesspeople, to take risks, invest, be efficient with their 
time. Now, after building the lodge, they acknowledge that their efforts have relied 
substantially on non-capitalist forms of production and organization in Infierno. The 
communal work parties, for example, were based on the traditional yae77a in which 
everyone worked at the same task for equal time with no pay for a communal project. 


Though the Ke'eway Association has had success in handling both the strategic 
management of Posada Amazonas as well as the everyday delivery of services, the 
partners are now beginning to consider what will happen over the long term and, in 
particular, how jobs that are currently assumed by Rainforest Expeditions will be passed 
to the community. Of special concern is mid-level management and how the community 
will be able to assume flill responsibility for such bureaucratic and technical tasks as 
financial accounting, marketing, and personnel training. For now. Rainforest Expeditions 
performs all these jobs while providing sporadic and often ad hoc training for community 
members, but more focused and planned training is necessary, not only so that the 
community may gain control, but also so that the company can dedicate more time to its 
other investments. 

Learning Both Ways 

In 1996, Rainforest Expeditions and the Native Community of Infierno agreed to 
work together in creating the Posada Amazonas ecotourism project. Though they signed a 
multi-page, legal document stipulating how they would split the profits and the decisions, 
the everyday practice of collaborating as equals could only be imagined. Onlookers 
anticipated the worst: the company would dominate the project, the community would 
participate little beyond providing services for tourists, and local people would be 
irrevocably changed, culturally, economically, and spiritually, as they became more 
dependent on the market economy. Few expected that Rainforest Expeditions would 
change as well. 

So far, however, the experience of Posada Amazonas has proven the predictions 
only partly true. Community members have indeed changed. As they become more 
involved in running a business, they have become more cognizant of their resources and 


how to capitalize on them, and they have begun to forecast farther into the future, 
weighing the advantages and disadvantages of various development options. In sum, they 
are thinking more like businesspeople. But the learning has gone both ways. The owners 
of Rainforest Expeditions have become more appreciative of local skills and traditional 
forms of organization, more respectful of indigenous knowledge, and more attentive to 
voices that before remained unheard. 


"Tourists leave money, which gives us income, and with that we are able 
to achieve conservation. " 

—Member of the Ke'eway Association, Infierno, 1998 

I opened the first chapter with an anecdote about an evening among tourists and 
community members in Posada Amazonas. In that story, a guide fi"om Rainforest 
Expeditions was explaining to a group of tourists how he hoped ecotourism might make a 
difference in Infierno. He revealed that his main interest was in conservation, and he 
confided, "I just hope the lodge will offer enough income and jobs to convince people to 
stop hunting and farming. Already, they've shown a lot of interest in protecting the 
Harpy eagles and the river otters, and I think it's because they know tourists like you will 
pay to see them." 

I draw attention to this comment because it captures well the sentiment expressed 
by many proponents of ecotourism. Earlier, I referred to this as the "promise of 
ecotourism," and it is the idea that new income and jobs from ecotourism can become 
powerfijl incentives for local residents to protect habitats and species. I included 
comments from conservation organizations, the popular media, and the academy, all of 
which pointed to income and employment as the main factors of importance in assessing 
the worth of ecotourism to local communities. 



The project in Infierno has also been characterized in economic terms. In an 
article about Posada Amazonas published in a Peruvian magazine, Mary Margaret 
Crapper (1998) offered this observation; "As more native communities [like Infierno] 
start to reap direct economic benefits as owners and partners of tourism services, locals 
will have more of an incentive, and a challenge, to protect what the tourists come to see" 
(p. 21). 

Also in 1998, a front-page article about Posada Amazonas in Peru's leading 

newspaper, El Comercio, had a headline that predicted a similar future for Infierno: 

"Paradise is in Hell: A native community passes from hunting and extraction to the 

tourism business" {^' El par also estd en Infierno: Una comunidad nativa paso de la casay 

la recoleccion al negocio del ecoturismo"). The reporter had suggested that ecotourism 

in Infierno would eventually replace people's other subsistence activities. Specifically, 

with the new jobs from tourism, the article predicted, people in Infierno would soon 

abandon hunting and other foraging activities. Indeed, as the passage below would 

suggest, the very act of signing the contract with Rainforest Expeditions seemed to seal 

forever the fate of everyday life in Infierno: 

"The day of May 5, 1996 will always be recorded in the history of the 
Ese'eja of the community of Infierno of the Tambopata River. On that 
day, upon signing the first contract of its kind between a private company 
and a native community, [the Ese'eja] became tourism entrepreneurs, 
leaving behind the hunting and extraction activities in which they have 
been involved since ancestral times" (Riberyro 1998). 

Not everyone who has observed the project Infierno has agreed with these 
assessments. In a 1997 issue of the journal, "Environmental Conservation," three authors 
with considerable combined experience of research and work in Tambopata predicted 
that the ecotourism project in Infierno would have little effect on people's subsistence 


activities. Despite the new influx of tourists, and regardless of any economic benefits 

generated by tourism, the authors argued, people would continue to live as they always 

had. Specifically, they predicted: 

"The Community of Infierno is unlikely to reduce farming or hunting rates 
in order to accommodate tourism, especially since they apparently plan to 
emphasize cultural tourism, that is, visiting the village and its farms. . . . 
Even if revenues generated by tourism were to increase local incomes 
directly, there is no guarantee that increased incomes would reduce the 
rate in which forests are converted to farmlands or even that the rate of 
hunring would decrease (Yu et al 1997:135)," 

In this chapter, I will address these debates concerning whether or not new 
economic opportunities from Posada Amazonas will compel people in Infierno to 
abandon, or at least reduce, their reliance on farming, hunting, and other subsistence 
activities. Here, I will combine quantitative and qualitative data to describe the dynamics 
between tourism and subsistence livelihoods in Infierno, both before and after the lodge 

I will argue that all of the indicators, at least so far, seem to be pointing in the 
same direction, towards the conclusion that normal subsistence activities do seem to be 
subsiding as a result of people's new involvement in tourism. In fact, the disruption or 
change in subsistence production was correlated with tourism in two types of 
comparisons: in the same popularion before and after tourism, and between populations 
that had varying levels of participation in tourism. 

Earlier, I argued that an economic analysis of ecotourism's impact was not the 
only, or the most important, impact of ecotourism. I said that ecotourism has a profound 
impact on people's sense of themselves, and their natural environment, what they have to 
offer to the world, and what they are capable of accomplishing. These empowering 
qualities of ecotourism are especially pronounced when ecotourism is locally-managed 


and participatory. When people are making decisions for themselves, they gain from the 
mistakes as well as the successes, and they are learning from the process of acting as 
managers rather than merely earning income. 

Yet these arguments need not negate the relevance of examining the extent to 
which new jobs and income from ecotourism do have impacts on people, particularly on 
their incentives to protect natural resources. If the analysis were to show that ecotourism 
is a bankrupt idea (literally), few companies would invest in ecotourism, either in a 
participatory mode or in any other way. Rather, what I want to illustrate is that the 
economic incentives alone may be short-sighted. Although increased incomes may help 
people meet their needs in the short run, more money may or may not provide incentives 
to protect natural resources over time. We can expect that if people earn more from 
working in tourism, they will have the means to consume more (in fact, after just one 
year of new income from tourism, people in Infierno are already spending more Peruvian 
soles, on average, per month than they did before tourism). Also when people earn more 
income, they have the ability to purchase tools and inputs that allow them to exploit 
resources, including fish, game, timber, wild fruits and soils, even more intensively than 
they did before. All of this implies that the connection between increased incomes and 
increased conservation is not a simple equation, especially over the long-term as 
consumption and production patterns shift. 

The fact that people are consuming more with more income is not itself a problem 
for conservation if and when the people who are earning the income are in a position to 
evaluate for themselves how changes in their own activities are affecting the collective 
pool of cultural and natural resources. I will elaborate on these ideas in the coming 


pages, but in this chapter, I will turn to the economic analysis of tourism in Infierno, 
exploring how new income and jobs have affected household subsistence production so 

Shifts in Methodology 

It was in the second and third years of fieldwork that I focused on the economic 
analysis, and here my approach shifted methodologically. Rather than conceptualize 
ecotourism as something affecting the community of Infierno, I began to perceive the 
ecotourism project as a factor that was going to affect individuals and households in 
Infierno differentially, depending on whether or not they participated in the project, how 
they participated, and to what extent they shifted away from other activities. This change 
in my understanding came from the results of the stakeholder analysis, which showed that 
not everyone in the community would be involved in and/or affected by the project in the 
same way. In just the first year, the difference between families involved with the 
tourism project and those not involved were already apparent. This was the case even 
though only one person from the community — the project coordinator — was earning any 
income from the project. 

In the first year, the majority of people involved in the ecotourism project were 
members of the ''Comite de Contror (which is also sometimes called the "Ecotourism 
Committee"). Participating in the Comite entailed a significant commitment of time, but 
no extra income. People met several times a month to exchange ideas, debate the by- 
laws and clauses of the joint venture, organize the logistics for the construction of the 
lodge, and plan how to keep the rest of the community informed. Though participation in 
that first year was a bit cerebral and abstract as opposed to physically demanding or 


financially lucrative, it nevertheless forged a divide in the community between those who 
were participating and those who were not. 

At times in the evening when most people in Infierno were settling down for 
sleep, the members of the Comite were walking the dark trails between their homes, 
meeting around someone's meal table, and discussing the latest plans. What they were 
doing with their time, the kinds of things they were talking about, the company they were 
keeping (often with the urban-based owners and managers of Rainforest Expeditions), 
and even the food they were eating (typically things like noodles and tomato sauce, 
canned tuna and rice, crackers and jam, and other purchased foods), differed significantly 
from that of their neighbors and friends in Infierno. 

By making individuals and households within the community my units of analysis 
(rather than the whole community), I sought to isolate different levels of participation in 
tourism as explanatory variables and make two types of comparisons among community 
members. First, I analyzed changes among the same people before and after tourism; and 
second, I compared differences across community members, depending on how much 
they participated in tourism. In both types of analyses, I tested hypotheses about the 
specific and differential impacts of wage labor and new income from tourism on people's 
household production and consumption. 

In 1997, 1 first began to gather baseline data on people's household economic 
activities. I surveyed about half of the adult heads of household in the community 
(N=58: 3 1 men and 17 women; 36 mestizos and 22 Ese Eja). The survey included 
questions about production from annual crops, fiiiit trees, and gardens; small and large 
livestock production; artisanal mining and logging; extractive activities (such as hunting. 


fishing, and harvesting of wild fruits and fibers); income and expenses (weekly, monthly, 
and annual); material wealth and recent purchases; and, opinions about conservation, 
value of different species of wildlife, community involvement in ecotourism, and 
perceptions of change in the community, especially as they were related to tourism. 
When I returned to Infiemo in June 1998, my goal was to revisit the same families and 
ask the same questions again (though about one-third of the questions were new), this 
time listening for changes that might have been precipitated by tourism. 

I defined households as the physical and social space in which people were 
sharing decisions, and engaging jointly in subsistence production and the procurement of 
food, clothing, and shelter (see Netting 1993). Some households consisted of just one 
individual, while others comprised many members of an extended family, including 
grown children and their spouses. For the households with more than one adult male and 
female, I interviewed all of the adults, and, subsequently, when I calculated household- 
level variables, such as "weekly expenditures," "number of hectares in pasture," and 
other measures of production and consumption, I combined the individual figures. 

In both years of the household economic surveys, I used a purposive, or 
"judgemenf sampling method (Bernard 1994). I would have preferred to interview 
everyone, but not everyone wanted to be interviewed, plus I had some basic logistical 
obstacles. Random sampling would not have provided me with enough variation in 
relevant factors, and would have left me with too few observations of certain population 
segments, so I used purposive sampling. I was careful to include representatives from 

For example, some of the homes were um-eacliable by footpath, and I had no boat. On many occasions, I 
took advantage of the tour boats passmg between the lodge and Puerto Maldonado to pick me up and drop 
me off at people's homes. 


each of the major stakeholder groups within in the community as I had learned would be 
important from the previous year's analysis.^ For example, I was sure to interview 
virtually all of the men and women who were working at the lodge, as well as those who 
participated in the Ecotourism Committee. These sub-populations in Infierno were 
especially critical to my analysis of how ecotourism was affecting people's livelihoods 
and values. 

What I did not anticipate when I returned to the field in 1998 — the first year in 
which tourists began to arrive — was that nearly half of the people who had begun 
working at Posada Amazonas were people I had neglected to interview in the previous 
year. This precluded me from being able to play my key methodological trump card, 
which was having baseline quantitative data for comparing the effects of tourism before 
and after people began working at the lodge. For these cases (many were young, 
unmarried men whom I had not considered "heads of household"), I relied more on cross- 
sectional data — i.e., people working in tourism at various levels of intensity in the same 
year — to make comparisons. Years from now, when I return to Infierno to follow up 
with longitudinal research, I will treat the combined data set from 1997 and 1998 as 
baseline data for more interesting and comprehensive before/after comparisons. 

None of the results of the statistical analyses, when taken alone, were able to 
provide enough evidence to determine conclusively that new wage labor and income 
from tourism in Infierno were causing people to reduce their reliance on farming, 
hunting, and other subsistence activities. However, when the different kinds of analyses 
were combined, the results were noteworthy because they all reflected the same 

I deteraiined who belonged to different kinds of social networks within the community by applying pile 
sort data to cluster analysis with the ANTHROPAC statistical package (Borgatti 1992; see Chapter 3). 


underlying trends. Perhaps the relatively short time scale of my study (four years) 
precluded me from being able to collect more conclusive data. I suspect that what now 
appear as relatively weak trends will become more pronounced with time. In general, it 
is still too early in the project for people to have made the kinds of shifts in subsistence 
practices that we might be able to detect at a greater scale in the coming years. For now, 
the data is showing incipient tendencies in how wage labor and income from tourism 
seems to be affecting subsistence production. With each statistical test, I will include 
qualitative data to support my interpretations of the numbers. Before presenting the 
analysis I will review findings from previous studies on the economic impacts of tourism, 
explaining how each influenced the formulation of my own hypotheses. 
Previous Studies on the Economic Impacts of Tourism 

Tourism has been shown to be a catalyst of changes in the household economy 
because it leads to new opportunities for wage labor, new sources of cash income, and 
new information about farm and household technologies (Barkin 1996; Eadington and 
Smith 1992; Levy and Lerch 1991; Nash 1996). Ecotourism more than other kinds of 
tourism can cause large changes in the household economy because it usually occurs in 
relatively isolated areas of the world where people are distant from markets and have 
little income (Whelan 1991). A small rise in income tends to have a more pronounced 
effect on the households of the poor than of the rich. 

By changing household economies, tourism also affects how people use forests. 
Specifically, tourism allows people to gain paid employment as cooks, guides, or 
administrators, and thus raises the opportunity cost of rural labor and reduces the amount 
of time people spend farming and foraging. Yet new income from tourism may have the 


opposite effect on farming and foraging. Increased income may allow people to invest in 
new technologies and intensify their farming and foraging. In sum, wage labor and 
income from tourism may have ambiguous effects on how people farm and forage, and 
on how they use forests.^ 

Many scholars have predicted that economic benefits from ecotourism will 
convince local residents to protect forests, but few studies have shown the ambiguous 
effects wage labor and income from ecotourism might have on how people use forests. 
The qualitative data from the first year of exploratory research in Infierno revealed early 
on the dual effects of ecotourism. One member of the community who was hired as a 
coordinator for the project stopped hunting once his job began. Before earning a wage, he 
made money from selling game meat in the regional market. He reported that he hunted 
two or three times a week before working in tourism, and not once (over a period of three 
months) afterwards. A second person who began to earn cash from tourism by selling 
woven palm thatch to the lodge told me he was planning to buy a chain saw with the new 
cash he earned. Eventually, he said, he would like to dedicate more time to harvesting 
and selling timber. In the first example, wage labor through tourism led to decreased 
pressure on wildlife; in the second example, cash income from tourism led to the 
possibility of increased pressure on forests. These early examples of the "either-or" 
effects of tourism guided my research in the ensuing months. 

" Other scholars (e.g.. Bookbinder et al. 1998) have referred to wage labor and income in tourism 
respectively as "direct" and "indirect" economic benefits. 

Hypotheses 1: Wage Labor and Reduced Time for Subsistence 

From what I had read about other host destinations, and what I had already seen in 
Infierno in the first year of research, I expected that the introduction of wage labor 
opportunities in tourism would give people incentives to divert time and labor away from 
subsistence production. I hypothesized that wage labor would be negatively correlated 
with farming and foraging activities. More specifically, I expected to find that once 
people began working in tourism as wage laborers, they would clear fewer hectares of 
forest for annual crops, and they would engage less intensively in hunting and other 
subsistence activities. I also expected to see this pattern cross-sectionally, between 
community members with different levels of participation in tourism. 

Ethnographic data from studies in other host destinations certainly supported this 
first hypothesis. Anthony Oliver-Smith (1989) described a case in Spain in which local 
hosts substituted their labor in farming with work in tourism. Mark Mansperger (1995) 
analyzed how tourism among Pacific islanders led to the cessation of subsistence 
activities and made locals more dependent on the outside world. Seiler-Baldinger's 
(1988) research in the Upper Amazon attributed declines in health among locals to the 
fact that they moved away fi-om subsistence activities to work in tourism. The case 
studies suggested that wage labor, introduced through tourism or through any other non- 
farm activity, raises the opportunity costs of subsistence activities. As people begin to 
work off-farm, and as the value of their time rises, they begin to invest less time in 
foraging and agriculture. 

Hypothesis 2: New Income and New Consumption 

Also from the preliminary research, and after reviewing the literature on the effect 
of new income on subsistence economies, I hypothesized that cash earned through 
tourism would result in an intensification, rather than a reduction, of foraging. More 
specifically, I expected that people who began earning cash from tourism would begin to 
forage forest resources (timber, game, fish, palm fruits, brazil nuts) more intensively than 
they did before tourism. I also expected to find differences cross-sectional ly (i.e., 
between those who earned different amounts of new cash from tourism). 

Ricardo Godoy et al. (1995, 1997) found that the effects of cash income on 
foraging varied, depending on the amount of income earned. Poor families are limited in 
their ability to forage intensively because they lack sufficient income to buy inputs that 
could improve foraging efficiency, such as shotguns, chainsaws, or tree-climbing 
equipment. But as income per person increases, and people are able to buy foraging 
technologies that save on time, people forage more. This theory was supported by Maria 
Cristina Espinosa's (1998) doctoral research in the Peruvian Amazon, which showed that 
men with greater access to cash were able to finance more hunting and fishing 
expeditions, and thus harvested more. 

I predicted that incomes generated by ecotourism, at least in the short run, would 
have countervailing effects on conservation goals: rather than give people incentives to 
protect resources, new income might give people the means to intensify the rate at which 
they extracted resources. Beyond a certain threshold of income, people may begin to 
decrease their foraging and switch to permanent non-farm work in tourism. 


Applying the Theories to Infierno 

To begin to apply the theories to the case of Posada Amazonas, I first examined 
the annual income people were earning fi-om tourism-related activities and compared it to 
what they were earning in other activities. My general question was simply whether 
ecotourism could offer, as the theories suggested, a lucrative alternative for community 

I was easily able to explore this question early in the project because Posada 
Amazonas was experiencing tremendous success even in its first year. In 1998, the first 
year in which tourists visited, the lodge recorded an average occupafion rate of 37.8%, 
hosting 1,386 tourists who stayed for an average of 2.3 nights.'' The average occupation 
rate in that same year for all of Madre de Dios was just 3 1% for 2. 1 nights, and the total 
number of tourists to the entire region was 10,732. That means that in its first year of 
operation, as just one of fourteen ecotourism lodges in the area, Posada Amazonas had 
captured over 13% of the regional tourist demand, 7% more than its share. In the 
second fiiU year of operation, the lodge increased its occupation rate to 58%, even with 
the addition of six extra rooms. 

The figures in Table 4 represent the totals of what people earned from their work 
in Posada Amazonas relative to other non-tourism related activities. The variable 
"income from tourism" includes salary earned through wage labor at the lodge, as well as 
cash earned through the sale of timber, palm, cane, agricultural goods, or handicrafts to 
the lodge. I did not include tips in the total income earned through tourism because it 

Total occupation rate equals total number of guests and nights per total number of rooms and nights 


varied so much from month to month, and because people were generally secretive about 
how much they earned in tips. As an estimate, employees at Posada Amazonas can earn 
about US$40,00 to $60.00 per month in tips (HoUe, personal communication). 

The variable "income outside of tourism" includes money people earned from the 
sale of agricultural goods, brazil nuts, game meat, pehs, and fish, and from contract labor 
(not at the lodge). Most of this data I imputed by summing monthly production for 
different products and different seasons throughout a year, and then multiplying the total 
production by the average price for the item in that year. For some items, such as 
avocados, the price varied significantly depending on the time of year. For these items, I 
averaged the price for different seasons and then multiplied each average by the total 
production for each respective season. 

It would have been impossible to observe and confirm with my own 
measurements how much every household produced for each item, and so I relied on 
people's recollection of how many sacks of oranges, how many bunches of bananas, how 
many barrels of brazil nuts, etc. they sold throughout the year. Though accuracy is a 
problem in this kind of data that is pulled from memory (see Bernard et al. 1984), I 
discovered that people were so quick and forthcoming about exactly how much they had 
produced that I began to feel confident that, in fact, they did know. My explanation for 
this is that small-scale producers who are earning an average of less that $6,000 per year 
generally, out of necessity, keep track of every sol that is earned and spent. The fact that 
I found high correlation between what people told me in 1997 and what they reported to 
the same questions in 1998 (in some cases, people even remembered exactly what they 
had told me the previous year, such as how many kilos of rice they sold that year, or how 


much they had earned form the sale of peccary meat) also gave me confidence in the 
imputed data. 

Table 4 Average Annual Income from Tourism vs. Other Activities 

Income From 


Income From 

Other Activities 


Mean Annual Income 

Standard Deviation 



(USS 1,994.87) 

(USS 898.07) 

(USS 1,919.25) 

t = -4.429, p=0.000 
The amount of income the lodge can generate is limited: it pays salaries to about 
twelve or thirteen full-time and part-time staff persons, and it offers cash to families who 
sell goods to the company. More than a year after Posada Amazonas was built, very few 
families in Infierno had abandoned their subsistence activities entirely to work in tourism. 
An exception was a family who derived all of their income from tourism because both 
aduhs were earning salaries from the lodge. In 1998, that family earned approximately 
USS4,320.^ The highest recorded household income from tourism in 1998 was $5,017, 
and the lowest amount was zero. In most cases people who worked in tourism were 
earning more than US$735.00 (as shown in the table) because they continued to work in 
other income-earning activities (see figures 6 and 7) 

Both the husband and wife in this couple were able to work because their extended family provided 
substantial support in terms of caring for their three young children. Most families, in particular the 
women, do not have such hberty away from childcare responsibihties. 


Main Source of Income Across Households 
1997: 2nd Year of Project 

palm thatch 


game meat 



brazil nut_ 






contract labor 


NGO project 

Figure 6: Main Source of Income Across Households (1997) 
Diversification is critical to the long-term success of subsistence production in the 
Amazon, and this is true even in Infierno where people have the option to invest more of 
their time in tourism. Though the lodge is offering new alternatives for making a living, 
most people continue to engage in a variety of activities, including swidden farming, 
raising cattle and small livestock, hunting, fishing, brazil nut collecting, and artisanal 
mining. Of the approximately 80 households in Infierno, only 12 were earning more than 
50% of the total income from tourism — either from wages or from the sale of goods. 


This may change with time. In three to five years, after the debts to financiers are 
paid, the lodge is expected to generate annual revenues of $100,000 that will be split 
among the entire community. That equals about $1,250 per household per year from 
tourism, which is about 21% of what the average household was earning through other 
economic activities in 1998.^ 

The partners in the project, Rainforest Expeditions, have acknowledged the fact 
that ecotourism will not make all families much richer than they already are, at least not 

Main Source of Income Across Households 

1998: 3rd Year of Project 

NGO project 

game meat 





brazil nuts 


contract labor 


palm thatch 0% 
timber 0% 

Figure 7; Main Source of Income Across Households (1998) 

In addition to the regular revenues generated by the lodge, people may also have additional money- 
makuig opportunities m the fiiture by developing satellite projects that capitalize on the tourist market. 
Already, people in Infiemo have formed committees to begin planning how to make and market handicraft 


quickly. Rather than provide a significant increase in income for every individual family, 
the hope is to provide new funds for communal projects, such as a secondary school, an 
improved medical clinic, new technology for processing agricultural products, new 
markets for locally produced goods, etc. Nor did anyone expect that all of the families in 
Infierno would give up their other activities to work in tourism. As the director of the 
project remarked, "Ecotourism cannot be the sole solution to all of the community's 
problems. People subsist through a variety of activities: they farm, hunt, fish, collect 
brazil nuts, raise livestock. And now they can add ecotourism. But they will not replace 
everything they do to work with ecotourism." 

In some ways, it is good that people have not switched entirely to wage labor 
because there are risks for those who do. In the possible case of economic bust in the 
tourism industry (as Peru experienced in the early 1990s), families in Infierno are not 
currently at risk of losing their subsistence security, namely the availability of food 
staples. Many studies have shown that the tourism industry is especially prone to boom- 
bust cycles. People on the demand side of tourism, in places like the U.S. and Europe, 
tend to sacrifice their vacations first whenever their disposable income takes a drop. This 
means that during economically depressed periods, workers dependent on the tourism 
industry for their livelihood usually experience an even tighter pinch than does the rest of 
the economy. As a result, small producers who divert time and labor away from 
subsistence to work in tourism are hardest hit by bust periods. In sum, tourism can be a 

products and value-added agricultural goods (like jams and preserves, juices, etc.) tliat could be sold to 


high-stakes enterprise for small-scale producers, especially those living at the subsistence 
level who are most vulnerable to economic shocks. 

The decision to work at Posada Amazonas is not only one of subsistence risk, but 
also of intense personal commitment. Every person from among the twelve or so flill- 
time staff members (from the community) whom I interviewed literally let out deep 
breaths of exhaustion when they reviewed for me their work routines. A typical day for a 
boat driver, a cook, a housekeeper, or anyone else who worked at Posada Amazonas in 
1998 began with a wake-up call at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. to light the lanterns, prepare a buffet 
breakfast, set the tables, and haul tourists' backpacks and duffel bags from the 
guestrooms down a very steep and often slippery riverbank to the boats. Throughout the 
day, they changed beds, sanitized showers, swept floors, prepared and served meals, led 
walks through the forest, identified and told stories about flora and fauna, paddled and 
navigated catamarans and boats, ordered supplies, handled logistics over the radio, and 
more and more and more. 

The day ended only at about 1 1 :00 p.m. or midnight, after the last tourist had gone 
to bed, the tables had been cleared, the kitchen had been cleaned and prepped for 
breakfast, and the next day's itineraries for as many as four or five different tour groups 
had been coordinated down to the last minute. Many staff workers were sleeping as little 
as four or five hours a night. As if that weren't enough, most workers attended nightly 
English classes offered in a corner of the kitchen by one of the volunteer teachers 
(brought in by Rainforest Expeditions). The intense level of dedication to Posada 
Amazonas was epitomized for me in the many evenings I wandered into the kitchen 
hoping for a tea and a casual conversation only to find people careftally pronouncing, 


"This is my house" or "That is a macaw" as they dried dishes, chopped carrots, or 
restocked the shelves. 

Amazingly, people carried on in their work for days, sometimes weeks, without 
seeing their families for more than a brief visit to the community between tour groups, or 
in the best case scenario, for an afternoon of soccer on Sundays. Because Posada 
Amazonas is so far upriver by canoe from where most people live, the commitment to 
work there necessarily entails being apart from one's family. Especially for the parents of 
young children, this condition makes the work doubly challenging. Many workers said 
they liked the job, but wished they could see their children more often. Later in this 
chapter, I'll address the implications of this situation for gender differences in who's 
participating in tourism. 

The long hours and the distance from home all for a so-so income made me 
wonder why anyone from Infierno would choose to work at Posada Amazonas. In the 
economic analysis of how new wage labor and income from tourism was affecting people 
in Infierno, this became my first question. If working there was obviously not the answer 
to getting rich quickly, and if the work was so demanding, why work there? 

People told me about other kinds of benefits they were gaining. For one, wages 
from employment provided a more reliable income than what they could be earning 
through agriculture and foraging. (And here, I should note that in 1998 workers at 
Posada Amazonas were earning US$65.00 per month more than what they would have 
earned had they been working in any of the other lodges in the region). The knowledge 
that "next month is provided for" and that the family will be able to rely on a certain 
amount of income to meet household needs is an advantage for anyone, but especially for 


subsistence producers who often experience ebbs and flows in their income as a result of 
uncontrollable circumstances, such as abrupt climate changes. 

Though wages in tourism are not immune to bust periods (as the case of Peru has 
shown), wages from employment are more steady, at least over the short term, than are 
subsistence-based earnings. This became apparent in my conversations with the workers 
who made comments like, "The salary is not a lot, but it is more certain {mas seguro)" 
and "I know how much I'll be earning. Now I can plan better." 

A second benefit to working at the lodge is that it offered a kind of social safety 
net. Many staff members at Posada Amazonas, as well as the members of the Comite 
(who earn no extra income for their investment of time), have developed professional 
associations and friendships with the urban-based guides and administrators of Rainforest 
Expeditions. These new relationships that began to cross well-entrenched boundaries of 
race, class, and privilege presented new opportunities for both sides. For the people of 
Rainforest Expeditions, there was the chance to learn more about the region, its social 
and cultural history, its natural environment, and customs of the people, /ro/w the people 
who call the region home. Many of the guides, in particular, described their interactions 
with community members as experiences that were especially rich. Many also admitted 
that it was challenging to overcome some of the basic differences in cultural backgrounds 
and beliefs. 

For the members of the community, the relationship with Rainforest Expeditions 
led to new fi-iendships, but it also offered a kind of informal kinship or compadrazgo. 
These alliances have already proven valuable for community members on a couple of 
occasions. For example, in 1998, one of the workers from the community suffered a 


devastating accident that left his leg severely injured. The company paid for his 
evacuation to a Lima surgeon, as well as most of the subsequent hospital expenses. Had 
he been forced to stay in the Puerto Maldonado for treatment, doctors there said they 
probably would have had to amputate his leg. This example and others show that the 
joint venture between the company and the community has created a at-large system of 
compadrazgo in which both sides rely on the other for different kinds of support.' 

A third advantage to working at Posada Amazonas is that community members 
are gaining training and skills that they may someday be able to use elsewhere. One man 
was consciously focusing on learning as much as he could be moving "up" and "across" 
several different positions, from boat driver, to guide, to personnel manager. His plan 
was eventually to leave the region and seek opportunities for work in the northern 
Peruvian Amazon. "With what I have learned," he noted, "I can seek jobs in other places 
in the fiature. I won't be unemployed." 

Finally, a fourth non-monetary but material benefit from working at Posada 
Amazonas is the food. Though workers do not partake in the same fare as tourists (unless 
they are training to be guides and thus join meal time with tourists), the food they do eat 
in the staff kitchen tends to be more diverse and nutritionally balanced than what they 
would normally consume at home. As one community member visiting the lodge 
laughed, "Well, the guys who have started working here have certainly fattened up." 

' Skeptics might argue that the joint venture is more hke a traditional patron-chent relationship than one of 
compadrazgo (though, in fact, the two are not mutually exclusive). I would argue that it is more 
egalitarian tlian a patron-chent relationsliip because botli sides have joined as partners, rather tlian as a boss 
and peons. Although in practice the relations of power between the company and tlie community are still 
uneven for reasons I have suggested in Chapter Four, at least in dieory, and certainly in people's minds, the 
two are partners and joint owners of the lodge. I think people's perceptions alone, even if they are not yet 
fully actuaUzed in everyday practice, set the tone for relatively equal and mutually advantageous relations 
of compadrazgo. 


For community members who do not work at the lodge, Posada Amazonas also 
offers certain advantages beyond just the hope of trickled down revenues. For small- 
scale entrepreneurs, the lodge offers a captive market of approximately 3,000 tourists per 
year for the sale of handicrafts, foods, and other items. The fact that tourists have no 
where else to choose from when they are in the lodge means that community members 
have the opportunity to experiment with both the quality and quantity of their products. 
And because tourists are already answering evaluation forms about their vacation 
experience, producers from Infierno can attach a short marketing survey to the 
evaluations to explore the kinds of products and services tourists may be interested in 
buying. The lodge offers rapid feedback from buyers and sellers and ultimately serves as 
a laboratory for testing what sells and what doesn't; this, in turn, ensures reduced risk in 
people's investment. 

In a similar vein, the lodge reduces the costs for transporting and marketing 
goods. Because the lodge is located within Infierno's territory, community members are 
able to take advantage of the daily movement of tour boats to transport their items. This 
is a significant advantage for products people usually try to sell in the main market in 
Puerto Maldonado. Most people do not have motorized canoes, cars, motorcycles, or 
even bicycles, and they are dependent on local taxis and intermediaries to transport their 
goods to market. This cost is eliminated for goods people sell to Posada Amazonas. 

Unraveling "Participation" 

Important to my analysis of the impacts of tourism on people in Infierno is the 
acknowledgement that not all people in Infierno participate in tourism equally. Some 
people participate directly, interacting with tourists on a regular basis as guides, artisans, 


or service staff; others are involved only behind the scenes, working as support staff for 
logistics or as wholesalers of foods and supplies. People also differ in terms of how 
much time and energy they invest in tourism: some are working as full-time staff with 
wages; others are contracting their labor occasionally, or earning cash only through the 
sale of construction materials, agricultural goods, or handicrafts. In teasing apart these 
differences in how people participate (or choose not to participate) in tourism, I have 
sought to understand what factors influence who participates, why, and in what ways. In 
other words, my goal has been to explore not only what tourism determines in people's 
lives, but also what about people's lives determines whether or not they work in tourism. 

The following sections contain analyses of the links between participation in 
tourism and other productive activities. I examined "participation in tourism" from two 
angles: 1) What causes it? 2) What does it cause? With the cross-sectional data, I have 
individual- and household-level characteristics for people who work in Posada Amazonas 
with varying levels of participation. Using the panel data, I compared two data sets for 
the same people between 1997 and 1998 to track change in their lives as the tourism 
project developed. 

Russell Bernard (1994) has written that "many of the most interesting variables in 
social science are complex and can't easily be assessed with single indicators" (p. 291). 
"Participation" is one such variable. To make "participation" an ordinal variable rather 
than a simple binary variable, I have assigned units of analysis to various dimensions of 
the variable "participation" and created an index. Different measures within the index are 
ways of concretizing, or operationalizing the concept of "participation," but none of the 


measures, taken alone, captures the complexity of participation. Table 5 shows the 
various dimensions of participation in 1997 and 1998. 

The weakness of the index is that "more" or "less participation" is somewhat 
subjective. A person who sells materials to the lodge, is a member of the Ecotourism 
Committee, and never interacts with tourists might have a higher participation score than 
a person who interacts with tourists everyday but has not sold materials to the lodge and 
is not a member of the Ecotourism Committee. In general, however, the index matches 
people's general perception of who participates a lot and who participates little in 
Table 5 Explanation of Participation Index 




This is an index that includes ten criteria: 

■ Membership in Ecotourism Committee; 

■ guardian of Harpy eagle nest; 

■ artisan; 

■ interaction with tourists (7 levels between "no interaction" and 
"close daily interaction"); 

■ number of days contribute volunteer labor to the project 

■ percentage of income earned through tourism (5 levels, 0-100%) 

■ number of different products sold to the lodge; 

■ previous employment with Rainforest Expeditions; 

■ participant in ecotourism training workshop; 

■ participant in 1996 English classes. 




This is an index that includes seven criteria (in 1997, the ways in which 
one could participate in tourism were fewer than in 1998) 

■ income from sale of materials (palm thatch, timber, cane) to the 
lodge (3 levels); 

■ member of Ecotourism Committee; 

■ guardian of Harpy eagle nest; 

■ number of different products sold to the lodge; 

■ previous employment with Rainforest Expeditions; 
" participant in ecotourism training workshop; 

■ participant in 1996 English classes. 




This variable is only for 1998, and it is simply the highest individual 
participation score taken for either the male or female head of each 


Informally, I tested the validity of the index by asking six people affiliated with 
the project (i.e., guides and other researchers) who they thought from the community was 
most involved in the project. The answers matched closely the list of top ten or so 
participants whom I had identified using only the index. To qualify the word "closely," I 
mean that each of the six persons I asked to name "who participates mosf listed the same 
nine or ten individuals with the highest participation, with only a few differences in 
specific ranking. Also the people they picked were not simply the people who were 
working at the lodge (versus being involved in some other way). For these reasons, I felt 
reasonably confident that the index was a valid measure of the complex variable of 

First, I will explore what causes participation, and second, what does participation 
cause? Figure 8 shows the distribution of different levels of participation — most 
common was a low participation score of less than 3. As the level of participation 

Distribution of Diflferent Levels of Participation in Tourism 










10 15 20 25 

Number of Individuals 



Figure 8: Distribution of Different Levels of Participation in Tourism 


increased, the number of cases decreased. This I expected, for especially in the early 
years of the project, few people either had the opportunity to get involved or were willing 
to take the risk (see Chapter 4). 

Table 6 shows that the maximum score for individual participation increased to 17 
points from only 7 between 1997 and 1998. This is because in 1997, the lodge was under 
construction, and tourists visited the community only sporadically and for just a few 

Table 6 Summary Statistics for Participation in 1997 and 1998 

Individual Participation 1997* 

Individual Participation 














Std. Deviation 



hours to visit the Harpy eagle nests. In general, people in Infierno had few opportunities 
to participate in tourism, aside from selling construction materials (palm thatch, wood, 
cane) to the Association, serving on the Ecotourism Committee, or acting as a 
"Guardian" for one of the Harpy eagle nests. In 1998, the opportunities to participate 
increased dramatically— essentially, all the wage labor positions opened up as well as the 
possibilities for selling handicrafts and other items to tourists. 

The tables and figures below show the individual characteristics of the people I 
interviewed, and the how they were distributed over different levels of participation in 

* For half of the sample (those whom I had not interviewed in 1997), I relied on people's recollection to 
calculate "individual participation" for 1997. 


tourism. As Table 7 and Figure 9 show, the fewest number of respondents, across four 
main ethnic categories, had "high" participation scores. People who identified 
themselves as part Ese Eja (because they had a father or mother who was Ese Eja) were 
the best represented in the "high" category. These were generally the people who 
participated in the Ecotourism Committee, and/or interacted with tourists on a regular 
basis, and/or earned a high percentage of their overall annual income from tourism, 
and/or had worked with Rainforest Expeditions in the past. 

Best represented in the category of "low participation" was the ribereilo 
population. These were the people who had perhaps attended a training workshop, or 
Table 7: Participation in Tourism by Ethnic Group 

Level of Participation 


Ese Eja 


Part-Ese Eja 














Pearson Chi-square: 6.076; p-value: 0.415 

Participation in Tourism by Ethnic Group 

■ Andean 
Q] Ese Eja 
UPart Ese Eja 

Low Middle 

Level of Participation 


Figure 9: Ethnic Group and Participation in Tourism 


sold palm thatch to the Association, or participated in a communal work party to build the 
lodge. Few people in this category participated in more than one activity that required a 
significant investment of their time and/or resulted in any substantial new income. 

Most people from all four ethnic groups were clustered in the category of "middle 
participation." These are the people who worked in the communal labor parties to help 
build the lodge, participated in planning meetings and/or attended training workshops, 
and perhaps sold a few produce items or handicrafts to the Association. 

In terms of age differences in various levels of participation. Table 8 and Figure 
10 show that community members between the ages of 26 and 40 years represented the 
majority in the category of "high participation." Generally, these are the people who 

Table 8: Participation in Tourism by Age 

Level of Participation 




15-25 years 


26-40 years 


41-60 years 


61-75 years 




70% ^ 
40% -" 
20% - 

Participation in Tourism by Age 



Low Middle 

Level of Participation 


Figure 10: Age and Participation in Tourism 

I 15-25 years 
[1 26-40 years 
041-60 years 
B 61-75 years 


had children old enough to contribute to household labor needs. Elders in the 
community, those between 61 and 75 years of age had no representation in the category 
of "high participation." 

Figure 1 1 shows the age distribution of the people I interviewed. A critical gap in 
my sample was the men between 15 and 25 years of age. As I mentioned earlier, these 
were people I neglected to interview because they did not appear in my roster as "heads 
of household." Though many men at that age have already married in Infierno, they tend 
to remain hidden (at least to me) as heads of household because they either live with their 
wives' families, or they migrate temporarily out of the community to work in mining, or 
they enlist in the military. I missed interviewing men in this age cohort in the first year 
of household interviews simply because I did not consider their importance either to the 
community-based economy or to the project. 

Age Distribution of Respondents 


I 10 

& 5 

15 25 35 45 55 65 
Interval maximum, in years 


Figure 1 1 : Age Distribution of Respondents 

Fortunately, by the second year of the surveys, once the lodge had been built, I 
discovered that many young men were active participants in the project, either through 
wage labor positions, or as producers of raw materials, or as manual laborers in the 


construction of the lodge facilities. These young men were precisely the members of 
Infierno who, in many ways, were most able to participate in the project: they were 
young with few obligations, either because they did not have children or because they 
had a relatively small chacra, they were physically fit, and they were keen to learn new 
skills that they could apply to other jobs in the fiature. Though I was able to interview 
many of these young men later in the second year of the surveys, they remained relatively 
underrepresented in my analysis. 

Gender is another key variable that was strongly correlated with who participated 
in tourism and in what ways. Figure 12 shows that, in the category of "high 
participation," virtually no women were represented. Generally, this is the case because 
gender roles in Infierno assign women as responsible for childcare. At least at the time of 
the research, it was impossible for women to work at the lodge and also care for their 

Men's and Women's Participation in Tourism 



60% - 

50% - 

liff-' ■ 

40% - 
30% - 

20% - 


10% - 
0% - 

— \ ' 


Low Middle 

Level of Participation 


B Women 

Figure 12: Men's and Women's Participation in Tourism 


children. Working at the lodge implies living there (because it is far upriver from 
people's homes). For most women, the possibility of leaving the household and the 
children is simply not an option. 

Especially in the first year of the project, most of the women in had no plans to 
get intensely involved, but the situation in their households was changing nevertheless. 
Though women were not clearing trails, debating the by-laws of the agreement, or 
participating in English classes, they were affected by the project, often through the 
participation of their spouses. If their husbands or older sons were involved in the 
project, that meant there would be new constraints on men's time for farming and other 
productive activities. 

Changes for the men certainly implied subsequent shifts in women's 
responsibilities. Women whose husbands and sons were involved were generally 
spending more time alone as they maintained the household. In addition to their normal 
chores that included a full day of washing clothes in the river, cooking, caring for young 
children, maintaining chickens and other small livestock, several women also became 
responsible for attending meetings in their husbands' stead, working in the chacra, and 
selling produce to taxis and intermediaries in the main market in Puerto Maldonado. For 
every man who became involved in tourism, there was a woman who was taking on more 
and more responsibilities in the household, essentially becoming a single head of 

Not only were women doing more, they were also doing different kinds of things. 
Maria, a woman who later began to work at the lodge herself, became involved first when 
her husband took on the position of community coordinator. In the first months, she 


often was cooking for groups of men who were involved in planning for or building the 
lodge. Even what she was cooking changed: her family no longer relied on food they had 
produced, but rather on food they had purchased (or had been purchased for them by 
Rainforest Expeditions). Also there was new income available to purchase new clothes 
and medicines, and new items for the household, such as cooking utensils, plastic food 
containers, radios, or even, in a couple of cases, televisions (operated by battery). 

The relationships with Rainforest Expeditions also meant that Maria's family 
developed new ties of compadrazgo. The social circles in which she and her family were 
interacting changed. She developed friendships with the people of Rainforest 
Expeditions, the staff in Puerto Maldonado, and researchers like myself who were 
involved in the tourism project. 

In addition to ethnicity, age, and gender, I also examined the education level as a 
factor that might be influencing who was participating in the project. Figure 13 shows the 
education distribution of the people I interviewed. 




5 + 

Education of Respondents 

2 4 6 8 10 

Interval Maximum, in number of years of stucfy 


Figure 13: Education of Respondents 


Table 10: Regression: Income and Education 
Dependent Variable (Y): Annual Income from Tourism 

Independent Variable 


XI : Education in Years 










P(2 tail) 



N = 101 men and women; Adjusted squared multiple R: 0.012; Standard error: 3.229 

Table 10 shows the results of a simple regression. The coefficient for education is 
positive, indicating a positive association between the number of years a person has 
studied in school, and the annual income he or she was earning from tourism in 1998. 
Though the coefficient is positive, it is very small, and not statistically significant. This 
indicates that the opportunity to participate actively in Posada Amazonas did not require 
an extensive formal education. What was more important was the flexibility to work 
away from home (which for most women was impossible), a willingness to learn new 
skills and work routines, and a basic knowledge of local natural resources. 

What Does Participation Cause? 
In this section I turn to the second question of what does participation cause. In 
some ways, I have already answered this for the case of women whose spouses were 
working in tourism. But here, I want to address more specifically the dynamics between 
work in tourism and subsistence production. Table 1 1 shows the variables I was most 
interested in testing as dependent factors whose variation could be explained by the 
independent variable of level of participation in tourism. In comparison with the income 
figures I presented in Table 4 of this chapter, the figures in Table 1 1 appear extremely 
low. This is because I divided soles to 1/1000 to be able to generate regression 
coefficients with whole numbers. (Readers should keep this in mind if the regression 


coefficients seem deceptively large.) The average exchange rate for currency in 1997 was 
2.664 nuevo soles to the dollar; and in 1998, 2.930 nuevo soles to the dollar. In Table 
11,1 explain how I calculated several of the main variables of interest. Tables 12 and 13 
provide summary statistics for the key household economic variables for 1997 and 1998. 

Table 1 1 Explanation of Key Variables 


Total annual 

Income from 

Income from palm 
and timber 

Wage income 

Income from 
activities other 
than tourism 


Wealth in stock 


Imputed from: 

sale of materials to build the lodge (palm thatch, timber, cane); 

sale of agriculture products (either to the lodge or to the main 


sale of handicrafts; 

wages (either in tourism or elsewhere); 

sale of brazil nuts, game meat and fish, medicinal plants, palm 


contract labor; 

remittances from friends and relatives. 

Imputed from: 

sale of materials to build the lodge (palm thatch, timber, cane); 

agricultural products sold to the lodge; 

sale of handicrafts; 

wages earned at the lodge. 

Many people earned by selling palm thatch and timber to build the 
lodge. I included this as "income from tourism." 

This includes income earned only through employment at the lodge. 

Imputed from: 

■ sale of agricultural products, brazil nuts, game meat and fish; 

■ wages from employment outside the lodge; 

■ contract labor; 

■ remittances from friends and family. ^^_ 

Number of hectares of primary or secondary forest cleared per 
household for a young swiddens (corn, rice, manioc) 

This is an ordinal variable measuring sum of household goods, 
including: radio television, bicycle, boat, motorcycle, and chainsaw. 


Table 12 Household-level Variables in 1997 (N=57) 





Heads of 

Brazil nuts sold 
(# of barrels) 

















Std. Deviation 





Table 13 Household-level Variables in 1998 (N=68) 








Income from 
























Std. Deviation 






Using these key household economic variables for 1997 and 1998, Table 14 
shows a matrix of bivariate pearson's correlation statistics. Of particular note is the 
relationship between "F" (Income from wages in 1998) and "A" (Total hectares cleared 
for agriculture in 1997 and 1997). The correlation statistic is relatively high and 
negative (-0.30). This indicates that wage labor in Posada Amazonas is negatively 
associated with the number of hectares people clear for agriculture. Because of the 
problem of endogeneity (or reverse causality) in this simple correlation, I cannot say that 
wage labor in tourism causes people to reduce the number of hectares people clear, only 
that the correlation is negative. 


Another relationship of special note in Table 14 is the strong positive association 
between "B" (Number of heads of cattle in 1997 and 1998) and "D" (Income earned from 
timber). Timber income, in this case, is that which was earned through sales to the 
Ke'eway Association to build the lodge. Therefore, timber sales here should be 
interpreted as a kind of benefit from tourism. Because it is strongly correlated with 

Table 14 Bivariate Analysis, Household-Level Variables (Pearson's correlation statistic) 
























0.30 0.07 0.06 0.13 
















0.27 0.55 0.26 0.68 


Hectares of annuals ( 1 997-98) F: 
Heads of cattle (1997-98) G.- 
Brazil nuts sold (1997) H: 
Income palm/timber (1997) I: 
Income game (1998) 

Income wage (1998) 
Total Annual Income (1998) 
Percent income tourism (1998) 
Household Participation (1998) 


"B," number of heads of cattle (0.58), it seems that participation in tourism is not always 
correlated with the trends conservationists hope to find. Several households who earned 
handsomely from the sale of timber to the Association reinvested their added income the 
following year to purchase cattle. 

In sum, the bivariate analyses suggest that different kinds of participation in 
tourism may affect the nature of subsequent impacts on the environment. People were 
able to earn income from the tourism project, but through timber extraction. This 
suggests that not all activities associated with ecotourism necessarily result in reduced 
pressure on natural resources. In the case of Posada Amazonas, people were cutting and 
selling timber (though not in vast quantities) specifically to sell to the Association to be 
used in the construction of the lodge. In a simple economic analysis, this new income 
may have appeared simply as a "benefit from tourism" and thus not distinguished from 
wage labor, which has different demands on people's time and subsequently on 
subsistence practices and the use of natural resources. 

In an economic analysis that distinguishes types of participation in tourism, the 
links between economic benefits and the subsequent impacts on forests can be made 
clearer. Note that the correlation between timber income and wage income from tourism 
was negative (-0.166), implying that the people who were selling timber were not also 
engaged in wage labor. This suggests that direct participation in tourism through wage 
labor may indeed, as theories about ecotourism suggest, create economic conditions to 
protect biological diversity. Other kinds of participation, such as selling products to the 
company, may or may not generate economic incentives to conserve. In the case of 


timber income from the project, much of it was used to invest in new cattle production— 
not the kind of activity most conservationists hope to promote through ecotourism. 

Muhiple regression analysis can add to our understanding of the earlier question 
"What causes participation in tourism?" Here, I have treated "participation" as an 
interval variable, though, in fact, it is an ordinal variable. For purposes of data analysis, 
an ordinal variable with seven legitimate ranks can be treated exactly as if it were an 
interval variable. Many researchers treat ordinals with just five ranks as if they were 
intervals, because association between interval-level variables can be analyzed using the 
most powerful statistics (Agresti 1986). 

The regression models I present are probabalistic (as opposed to deterministic) in 
that I am modeling the mean of the dependent variable as a linear fijnction of each of the 
independent variables. In each regression, I present the adjusted R-squared value rather 
than the basic R-squared value. Both provide the population coefficient of determination, 
which measures the proportion of the total variation in the dependent variable that is 
explained by the simultaneous predictive power of all the independent variables through 
the multiple regression model. The sample value of R-squared tends to overestimate the 
population coefficient of determination, especially when the sample size is relatively 
small (as is the case with my data). A better estimate is given by the adjusted R-squared 
value, which tells how good the model is for explaining variance in the dependent 
variable, while controlling for sample size and number of independent variables added to 
the model (Agresti 1986). 

Table 15 shows the regression statistics for the relationship between the 
dependent variable of individual participation in tourism in 1998, and the independent 


variables of gender, age, and education. Not all of the variables included in the model 
were significant, and there is evidence of multi-coUinearity between gender and 
education. When gender is removed from the model, education becomes a more 
significant factor for determining participation. Though the variance explained by this 
model is not very high (adjusted R-squared=0.266), the overall model is significant at a 
p-value of 0.000. 

Table 15 Regression: Participation in 1998 and Individual Profile 
Dependent Variable (Y): Individual Participation in 1998 

Independent Variables 










XI: Gender (Male-1; Female=0) 





X2: Age in years 





X3 : Education in years 





N = 1 14 men and women; Adjusted squared multiple R: 0.267; Standard error: 3.378 
(F-ratio 14.733; P-value 0,000) 

The p-values indicate that gender (p-value 0.000) and age (p-value 0.019) are the 
two most significant variables in explaining the variance in individual participation. This 
coincides with the findings from the descriptive analysis. Those who participated most in 
Posada Amazonas were more likely to be young men. Most significantly, both in a real 
world and statistical sense, gender is the characteristic that accounts for whether or not a 
person participates. 

Bivariate and multivariate analyses can also improve the descriptive analysis of 
the question of "What does participation in tourism cause?" To begin, Table 16 shows 
that people who work in tourism are spending more on monthly expenditures. 
Households with "low participation" reported to spend, on average, US$98 per month, 


whereas households with "high participation" reported an average of US$1 19 per month. 
The p-value of the t-statistic (0.073) is not significant at an alpha level of 0.05. 

Table 16: Monthly Expenditures b y Participation in Tourism 


Mean Monthly Expenditures 


Low Participation (0-3 points) 


(288 nuevos soles); US$98 


High Participation (13- J 7 points) 


(349 nuevos soles); US$1 19 

In the next analysis, Table 1 7 shows the statistics for regressing the dependent 
variable of total annual income in 1998 against several household-level, independent 
variables. Results of the analysis reveal that household participation has a positive, but 
not statistically significant correlation with total annual income, when controlling for 
participation for whether or not a person is Ese Eja and the number of hectares cleared for 
agriculture. Overall the model is statistically significant (p-value 0.002). 

Table 17 Regression; Total Annual Income in 1998 and I 
Dependent Variable (Y): Total Annual Income in 199 

lousehold Participation 

Independent Variable 




P(2 tail) 






XI: Household Participation 





X2: Ese Eja (l=yes; 0=no) 





X3: Hectares Cleared for Annuals (1997) 





N = 56 Households; Adjusted squared multiple: R: 0.201; Std error of estimate: 5.781 
(F-ratio = 5.606; P-value = 0.002) 


One of my main hypotheses was that participation in tourism would lead to fewer 
numbers of hectares cleared per year for agriculture.^ Overall, in 1997, the total number 
of hectares of forest cleared for agriculture by a sample of 32 households was 53 
hectares. In 1998, the first year in which people were participating fully in tourism as 
wage laborers, the total number of hectares cleared by the same 32 households was 58.75 
hectares. Without dififerenriating how people participated (either through wage labor or 
through the sale of materials to the Association), the trend shows an increase in forest 
clearance coinciding with an increase in tourism activity. Though, as Table 18 shows, 
the difference was not statistically significant. 

Table 18: Hectares Cleared by Same Households (1997 to 1998) 


Number of Households 

Mean Number of 
Hectares Cleared 

Total Hectares Cleared 





t-stat = -0.650; p-value = 0.518 

In examining more carefully the differences in how people participated, the 
increase in the number of hectares cleared is explained by some kinds of tourism 
activities. Specifically, if people's participation came through wage labor (rather than 
selling timber to the lodge, for example), then, on average, they began to clear fewer 
hectares of forest for agriculture. 

The results of a simple regression Table 19 are useful first for showing that, as 
percent of total income from tourism increases, percent of total income from agriculture 

While I discuss clearance of forest, I am lacking data as to whether the clearance for each new swidden 
was created in primary or secondary growth. Preparing a swidden in primary forest entails a much greater 
investment of labor to fell large or hard-wooded trees (Alexiades 1999: 148). 


decreases. The negative sign of the coefficient indicates that agriculture and tourism may 
be at odds with each other. 

Table 19 Regression; Income from Tourism and Income from Agriculture 
Dependent Variable (Y): Percent Income from Tourism 

Independent Variable 




P(2 tail) 






XI: Percent Income from Agriculture 





N = 57 households; Adjusted squared multiple R: 0.240; Standard error: 25.320 
(F-ratio: 32.330; p-value: 0.000) 

Table 20 shows that individual participation in tourism correlates negatively and 

significantly to the total number of hectares people cleared for annuals. In the first year 

of surveys, 1997, when the lodge was under construction, "participation" in tourism came 

mostly through the sale of timber and palm. Thus the economic benefits from tourism in 

1997 were primarily cash rather than wage labor. In the second year of surveys, 1998, 

the lodge had been built, relatively large numbers of tourists (about 3,000 that year) were 

visiting, and people were beginning to participate through wage labor. The signs for the 

coefficients for each year— the effect on hectares cleared for annuals — are different, 

allowing for the possibility that different types of participation have differing outcomes 

for people's decisions to clear forest for agriculture. 

Table 20: Regression: Hectares Cleared for Annuals (1998) and Participation in Tourism 
Dependent Variable (Y): Hectares Cleared for Annuals (1998) 

Independent Variable 


XI: Individual participation (1997) 

X2: Individual participation (1998) 













P(2 tail) 




N - 59 men and women; Adjusted squared multiple R: 0.137; Standard error: 1.272 
(F-ratio: 5.603; p-value: 0.006) 


Table 21 shows that the independent variable of wage income from tourism is 
negatively correlated with the frequency of hunting, and the relationship is statistically 
significant (t-stat -2.476; p-value 0.015). The numbers in this table match what I was 
learning more generally from talking to people in Infierno. One of the first persons in the 
community to become actively engaged in the project was a man who identified himself 
as part Esc Eja (on his paternal side) and who invested most of time, and earned most of 
his subsistence and cash income from hunting wild game and selling it in the market. 
Because he was especially eager to get the project going in Infierno in 1996, Rainforest 
Expeditions hired him at a monthly wage to coordinate community-based planning. 
Within just a couple of months of earning a wage from this new activity, he gave up 
hunting entirely. "I simply do not have time," he said. His motives to stop were not 
necessarily based on a new conservation ethic he had gained from tourism, but rather on 
the practical fact that he was busy doing other things for a living. His experience, early 
in the project, was one of the stories that initially influenced the research hypotheses. 

Table 21 Regression: Frequency of Hunting and Wages from Tourism 
Dependent Variable (Y): Frequency of Hunting 

Independent Variable 




P(2 tail) 






XI : Wages from tourism 





X2: Gender (Male=l;Female=0) 





X3; Age 





N = 102 men and women; Adjusted squared multiple R: 0.379; Standard error:0.892 
(F-ratio: 21.564; p-value: 0.000) 

The coordinator's story is useful for the thesis, but admittedly it is an outlier: few 

people in Infierno dedicate so much time to hunting for an income as he did, and fewer 

still have become so deeply involved as he (and his wife) later did. Yet, many men who 


were working at the lodge told me similar stories. Time and again, the comment was, "T 
used to hunt, but not anymore." On a prompt of, "Why?" they'd look at me with 
disbelief for my apparent ignorance of the obvious and ask, "With what time?" 

My point is, though the statistical analyses are weak (i.e., an adjusted R-squared 
of 0.379 in Table 21, and other low figures in other tables), they nevertheless support 
what I would have expected from talking to people. Indeed, even an armchair 
anthropologist might have been able to figure this one out without any empirical data: 
new demands on people's time through wage labor will curb their ability to engage in 
other productive activities, like hunting. 

Table 22 presents another model for explaining the variability in how much more 

forest people cleared from before and after the initiation of tourism profits. For every unit 

increase in income from palm/timber, the number of hectares cleared between 1997 and 

1998 increased by 0.606. For every unit increase in wage, the number of hectares cleared 

between 1997 and 1998 decreased by 0.007. 

Table 22 Regression: Change in Hectares Cleared and Income from Palm/timber 
Dependent Variable (Y): Change in Hectares Cleared for Annuals (1997-1998) 

Independent Variable 




P(2 tail) 






XI: Income from palm/timber (1997) 





X2: Wealth in stock (1997) 





X3 : Income from tourism wages 





N = 31 Households; Adjusted squared multiple R: 0.201; Standard error: 1.895 
(F-ratio: 3.508; p-value: 0.029) 

Again, this model shows similar trends revealed by the model in Table 21. Wage 

labor from tourism and cash income from tourism seem to have different impacts (i.e., 

the signs on the coefficients are different) on subsistence production. Though the figures 

are very small, and thus insignificant from a real-world perspective, they nevertheless 


point to an incipient trend that may have more importance in the longer time period. 
Also, Table 22 and others show the importance of discerning differences in how people 
participate in tourism — ^what kinds of economic benefits they earn — ^before assuming any 
particular impacts on incentives for household production. 

Income from Tourism and Attitudes About Wildlife 

Throughout this chapter, I have explored two main questions: What causes 
participation in tourism? And what does participation in tourism cause? In analyzing the 
second question, I have focused mainly on how income and wages from tourism have had 
different kinds of impacts on people's household subsistence activities, particularly 
swidden farming and hunting. I have said that most proponents of ecotourism have 
focused on the idea that economic benefits from tourism will provide incentives for local 
residents in tourism destinations to protect natural resources. My objective throughout 
the chapter has been to test that assumption. Though I have focused on the incentives 
ecotourism in Infierno has offered to change people's economic behaviors, so far, I have 
not explored the possible impacts on values. 

In analyzing the impact of tourism on values, I explored two things: 1) how 
people in Infierno were beginning to perceive themselves, their ethnic identity, and each 
other differently (I save that analysis for the next chapter), and 2) how people were 
beginning to assess the relative worth of some natural resources over others. 

Within the context of sustainable development, some conservationists have said 
that the commercialization of natural resources, such as through tourism, may add value 
to natural resources, and thus provide greater incentives for people to protect the 
resources. By the same rationale, 1 expected that people who earn began to earn more 


economic benefits from tourism would begin to perceive as somehow "more valuable" 
the wildlife species that were most attractive to tourists, even if such resources had no 
particular economic or spiritual value prior to the introduction of tourism. 

In the case of Infierno, I expected that Harpy Eagles {Harpia harpyjd) and Giant 
Otters (Pteronura brasiliensis) might gain new value in the eyes of people who were 
participating most in Posada Amazonas. For conservationists, both of these large 
predator species are considered endangered and critically in need of protection. Not by 
coincidence, both of these species are also highly coveted by tourists, and thus the 
continued presence of Harpy Eagles and Giant Otters in Infierno is central to the long- 
term success and viability of tourism in Posada Amazonas. Despite the importance of 
Harpy Eagles and Giant Otters among biologists, conservationists, and tourists, neither 
species held special economic significance to people in Infierno — at least not before 

Though Ese Eja hunters in Infierno told me the Harpy eagles had always carried 
symbolic significance, the raptors generally were hunted only occasionally for their 
feathers. Relative to other bird species, however. Harpy eagles were not prized as prey. 
One hunter explained that their elusiveness in the high canopy made them an especially 
difficult to capture. 

As for the Giant Otters, they were hunted years ago for their pelts, but since the 
international market for such pelts was outlawed, otters were rarely hunted (either for 
food or fur). In more recent years, otters have been economically important to people in 
Infierno, but rather from the perspective of competition for fish and fishing space. 


To test for differences in attitudes about Harpy eagles and Giant otters as 
correlated with different levels of economic benefit from tourism, I questioned people 
about their perceptions of photographs of 26 different wildlife species commonly found 
in Infierno. These included a variety of prey and non-prey species for several different 
taxa. They also included several species that were known for their different levels of 
popularity among tourists. The full list of photographs included images of the following 
species (by English common name): Harpy eagle, Scarlet macaw, sunbittern, Hoatzin, 
capuchin monkey. Night monkey, Squirrel monkey, three-toed sloth, coati, tamandua. 
Giant otter, Red brocket deer, paca, capybara, collared peccary, tapir, ocelot, jaguar, 
caiman, catfish, Bushmaster snake, side-necked turtle, fruit-eating bat, tree frog, 
butterfly, and night beetle. 

In each interview, I handed the pile of laminated pictures to people and asked 
them to select the five species they considered "most valuable." I did not define 
"valuable" but rather asked them to define the concept for themselves. Some people 
defined "valuable" species as ones they hunted; others defined "valuable" species by 
different criteria, such as beauty, spiritual or mythological significance, others defined 
"valuable" species as those most important to tourism. 

After people had finished choosing, I asked them to sort through the same pile of 
pictures and select the five species "most valuable" to tourists. I expected to find that 
people who participated most in Posada Amazonas would have matching piles: that is, 
the same species "valuable" to them personally would be the species most "valuable" to 


Table 23 presents results of the tests for the two species most publicized by the 
Ke'eway Association for their attractions at Posada Amazonas, Harpy eagles and Giant 
otters. The Table indicates that people earning a relatively high percentage of their 
income from tourism identified Giant otters and Harpy eagles as "valuable," whereas 
people who earned a relatively high percentage of their income from agricuhure (rather 
than from tourism) did not identify Harpy eagles and Giant otters as "valuable." 

Table 23 Perceived Value of Wildlife and Income from Tourism 



Mean % 







Did not 
identify as 







Identified as 






Did not 
identify as 







Identified as 





This relatively simple analysis from early in the project seems to suggest that 
economic benefits from tourism may be connected with new and positive valuations of 
natural resources, particularly those resources most sought after by tourists. If attitudes 
ultimately affect people's decisions about subsistence practices, ecotourism may, in fact, 
be delivering on the economic promise the conservation community has anticipated. 


Conclusions from Economic Analysis 

One goal of the research was to reveal the effects of wage labor and cash at 

Posada Amazonas on people's use of natural resources. The hope offered by the 
ecotourism literature is that economic benefits from tourism will give local people 
incentives to protect wildlife and other natural resources for tourism. I expected that the 
main economic benefits from tourism— wage labor and new cash income— would have 
ambiguous impacts. I hypothesized that wage labor would give people incentives to 
divert time and labor away from farming and forest extraction, and that new cash from 
tourism would offer people the means to intensify the rate at which they farm and extract 

In this chapter, I have combined quantitative data with ethnographic information 
to argue that the first half of the hypothesis is true. As people are beginning to work at 
Posada Amazonas, the value of their time is rising, and they are starting to invest less 
time in hunting and clearing forest for annual crops. In general, earning an income from 
tourism seems to conflict with earning a living from more traditional subsistence 
activities. Earning income from tourism may also be linked with new and positive 
valuations of certain wildlife species that are especially attractive to tourists. 

Yet, the larger equation between economic benefits from tourism and less 
pressure on game species and forests is not so clear, at least not in this early stage of the 
project. In particular, the second part of the hypothesis remains untested. The project is 
too premature to show that community members are using their new income from Posada 
Amazonas to intensify the rate at which they are farming and extracting resources. 


Though some people have talked about plans to buy chain saws, motorboats, and other 
implements that would allow them to increase their productive rates, and people who 
work in tourism are spending more per month than are those who do not, it is too early to 
track how people are investing their new income in farm and forest production. 

Though the statistics are too weak to stand alone, what is interesting here is that 
all of the data — qualitative, quantitative, descriptive, and analytical— seem to be pointing 
in the same direction, indicating that the ways in which people participate in tourism are 
important for understanding their incentives to interact with nature in particular ways. 


/ waited as she closed her notebook and zipper ed the pencil into its plastic 
carrying case. Her class was over, and we were on our way to "la banda " (the other 
side of the river). I had arranged a meeting with her parents for three o 'clock that 
afternoon, and she had agreed to paddle me there in her small dugout canoe. As we 
descended the steep bank, flip flops and boots negotiating the switchbacks, she turned to 
me, "WhatisEseEja?" 

"Well, " I began, a bit surprised, "you already know that, don 'tyou? The Ese Eja 
are . . . " Then, not sure how to continue, I turned the question back: "What does Ese Eja 
mean to you? " 


As the source of encounters between people of different cultural settings, tourism 
often triggers the creation of new social values as well as economic changes. Tourism 
provides the context for locals and tourists (hosts and guests) to gaze at each other, and to 
reflect on themselves through the eyes of others. Throughout the research, I have 
imagined windows and mirrors as metaphors for the points of contact between hosts and 
guests: each depends on the other to view alternative ways of being, as well as to cast 
back impressions of how the other "should be," based on expectations and stereotypes. In 
the wake of such gazing and reflecting, people on both sides of the encounter are likely to 
walk away affected, their values altered. 



For these reasons, I have conceptualized tourism as a special kind of market 
integration. In Chapter One, I said that interactions between hosts and guests in tourism 
involve more than the simple exchange of money for goods or services. They also 
involve expectations, stereotypes, and expressions of ethnic identity and culture — these 
become the cuixencies and commodities that are exchanged between buyers and sellers, 
hosts and guests, in tourism. The inter-subjective perceptions of what's going on 
between hosts and guests (i.e., what we think they're thinking, and what they think we're 
thinking), and how both sides are affected by the encounters, are not easily captured by 
economic analyses alone. 

This chapter will be qualitatively different from the previous. Though here I 
continue to focus on the impacts of tourism in Infiemo, I will focus not on the economic 
or material changes in peoples lives, but rather on their feelings of cultural identity, and 
in particular what they perceive the tourists want to see in terms of ethnicity and tradition. 
I will also interpret how relations between people of different ethnic groups in Infiemo 
have changed since Posada Amazonas was created. 

Exploring Ethnicity in Infiemo 

The questions concerning identity and ethnic relations and how they might be 
altered in the context of tourism moved to the forefront of the research even before the 
lodge, Posada Amazonas, came under construction. Although I had no explicit interest in 
ethnic identity before visiting Infiemo, I could do little to avoid it in the subsequent years 
of field work. Conducting any kind of social inquiry there, and ignoring ethnicity could 
be nothing short of negligent. 


Concerns over who belongs in what group, what people think of each other, and 
how they get along are at the core of almost every casual conversation and formal 
meeting in Lifiemo. Of the 65 men and women who responded to my question, "What is 
the worst problem in Infiemo today?" 1 6% identified "conflicts between ethnic groups," 
and another 26% pointed to the "lack of organization and vvilhngness to work together" 
as the worst problem. In fact, concerns over ethnic conflict and lack of organization 
topped other serious problems, such as "lack of economic opportunities," "lack of potable 
water," and "lack of quality education." Even among people I talked to outside the 
community, the fact that Infiemo is a mixed community often came up as the first 
distinguishing characteristic.^ 

Aside from the fact that everyone was taUdng about ethnicity, two things 
compelled me to learn more about people's notions of identity, and how they might 
change in the context of tourism. For one, I discovered even before visiting the 
community that most people who know Infiemo describe it as rife with conflict over 
ethnic differences between the Ese Eja, the riberenos, and the mestizos. A catchy if 
predictable comment was, "Infiemo lives up to its name." Others with experience in the 
community told me it was a "hornet's nest." Especially when the highly controversial 
joint venture with Rainforest Expeditions was proposed, Infiemo was characterized as a 
war zone. I was literally cautioned about doing research there. 

Based on all that I had heard and read, I expected to find, or more precisely see, 
conflict and ethnic difference in Infiemo. I imagined clearly distinguishable camps — ^the 

' These interviews occuired before the official plans for the split between tlie Ese Eja and th.e mestizos, a 
development I will discuss later in the chapter. 


Ese Eja looking and acting different on one side, and the mestizos and riberenos on the 
other. Yet, when I arrived to Infiemo, I found it difficult to detect much of any conflict 
or, for that matter, see major differences between the groups. With time, I learned that 
they do maintain a strong subjective sense of identity and affiliation. Few community 
members commonly make the distinction between Andean (or recent migrants) and 
riberenos (or long-term residents of tribal descent), but they do tend to talk about " los 
mestizos y los nativos," or alternatively, "/o5 mestizos y lospaisanos." The main 
distinction of importance seems to be between the Ese Eja and the non-Ese Eja. Though 
people were not fist-fighting or shouting (my expectations of "conflict"), the differences 
were felt, and also deeply embedded in people's memories, which had accumulated over 
more than two decades of sharing the same territory. 

A second issue that triggered my interest in ethnic identity was the fact most 
people identified Infiemo as having lost its indigenous identity. Invariably, Infiemo was 
characterized as the most "Westernized," "modem," "acculturated," or simply "changed" 
of the native communities in Madre de Dios. Indeed, Infiemo is just thirty minutes by 
road fi-om the urban center of Puerto Maldonado, and fully half the community is 
comprised of mestizo families who have been living there for several decades. 

Even within the community, the Ese Eja frequently identify themselves as 
different from the nativos of other communities in the region. With a combination of 
shame and wonder, they often remark that the Ese Eja of Sonene (another Ese Eja 
commimity in Madre de Dios) still keep their traditional ways. They live differently, 
("only pure Ese Eja among them" ); they do things differently ("they still hunt only with 
bows and arrows"); and they talk differentiy ("even the children speak the language 


fluently"). A 67-year-old ribereno woman who had raised eight children in Mfiemo 

commented, "Before the natives spoke their own language, but now their children do not 

want to speak it." Also noting the fading of tradition in Infiemo, a 36 year-old-man who 

had been bom in the region but was not Ese Eja made the following observation: 

"Now they [the Ese Eja] have their radios, they listen to the news, they 
have their watches, and nice shoes. The real ones, the old ones who died, 
they were Ese Eja. They did not know about money, they spoke their 
language, they did not know anything. The Ese Eja in Sonene and in 
Palma Real— they are the real ones." 

It was common to hear that the natives in Infiemo had lost their authenticity, or 
that they were somehow not "real." Even the Ese Eja themselves seemed to believe it. 
Yet, when the community signed the contract with Rainforest Expeditions, many 
onlookers outside of the community were quick to protest, arguing that the influx of 
tourists to Infiemo would destroy the Infiemo 's ethnic identity. Here was an irony: on 
the one hand, the natives of Infiemo were perceived as having little identity left to lose, 
but on the other hand, something about their identity was still worth saving from the 
Westemizing influence of tourism. 

In the months that followed, I began to investigate further what it meant to be Ese 
Eja or mestizo. What were the perceived and real ethnic differences? In open-ended 
interviews, I asked community members to describe, if they could, what belonging in 
each group signified, what each perceived of the other, and what they thought were 
certain advantages or disadvantages of belonging to either group. 

At fnst, I was concemed about the validity of my questions. I thought they might 
be too abstract and/or too polemical. Infiemo was already a community known for 
conflict, and I certainly did not want my questions to incite more angry emotions. But 
people surprised me. Nearly everyone was extremely quick to answer, and they seemed 


not at all concerned that what they said might insult someone or cause problems. The 

impression people gave me was that talking about ethnic differences, at least in private, 

was not at all unusual. No one needed to think very hard or very long to be able to 

explain to me the differences between an Ese Eja and a mestizo. 

Many men and women differentiated the groups by explaining the different kinds 

of work and work ethics between the Ese Eja and mestizos. A 36-year old man who had 

migrated to Infiemo from the region of Cusco said, 

"The Ese Eja are the same as the mestizos, but their work is different. 
The Ese Eja like meat and hunting. The mestizos like agriculture more." 
The Ese Eja do not work much in the chacra-orAy in pieces, but not all 
year. The Ese Eja are conformists, they stay vdth what they have. We 
[the mestizos] are thinking about old age, about being prepared for the 
future. The Ese Eja do not think about old age . . . for example, they do not 
have fruit trees or cattle." 

Similarly, another man of the same age who had been bom in Infiemo and who 

was Ese Eja, but only on his father's side, said, 

"The mentality of the native is to work for the day. They think only about 
hunting to eat today, and not to invest the money for the future. For a long 
time, they have had this mentality. The mestizos are thinking about 
having more, they have their radios, they have money so that they are not 
missing anything in the home. They put more into the chacrar 

Implicit in these distinctions between the farming and foraging lifestyles is the 
idea that farming is tme work, and foraging is not, and that farming imphes that a person 
is concerned for the future, whereas foraging is a day-to-day existence. As a 38-year-old 
Ese Eja woman who had married a ribereno from the region explained: 

"The Ese Eja live from fishing, they walk in the forest. The mestizos do 
too, but not much — ^they worry more about working^ 


Others pointed to physical traits to characterize the ethnic differences m Miemo. 

A 30-year old riberefio man described the Ese Eja as noticeably different, 

"in the face, in the hair, in the language. They do not talk like we do, they 
have another class of words." 

And, a 63-year-old man who was a founding member of Infiemo and had 
originally migrated from Cusco said about the Ese Eja: 

"Their noses are turned, and their faces are different." 

A third point of difference many people described was that of perceived 

intelligence. Generally, people said the mestizos were smarter, in part, because they had 

a better command of the language. As a 37-year old Ese Eja man said, 

"The mestizos participate more; Hiepaisanos (Ese Eja) are more humble 
than the mestizos. The mestizos have more knowledge." 

A mestizo of the same age who had been bom in Infiemo explained, 
"The natives are ashamed to speak their own language." 

As I recorded these comments and others, I was stmck by the level of consensus 
among people, even across categories of gender, age, and ethnicity. I seemed to be 
hearing the same things, regardless of who was doing the telling; that is, the mestizos and 
the Ese Eja, the men and the women, the young adults and the elders had very similar 
ideas about what it means to be Ese Eja or what it means to be mestizo. With so much 
agreement, I began to realize how well-entrenched the ethnic stereotypes in hifiemo had 

In general, people told me the Ese Eja do not plan ahead for the future, and 
instead, they worry only about meeting today's needs; they do not farm, but they do hunt; 
and, they are knowledgeable about the forest. The consensus about the mestizos was that 
they are savvier in many ways, especially in terms of language, and, because they do 


speak well, they dominate in meetings. Also, the mestizos were described as very 
ambitious, thinking only about themselves, and not about the conununity as a whole. 

Not surprisingly, I found evidence to counter most of the stereotypes. Though 
people told me the Ese Eja had problems with language, I watched several Ese Eja men 
of different ages speaking Spanish fluently and often speaking up in community 
meetings. Though people told me the Ese Eja did not engage in agriculture and/or the 
market economy, I interviewed many Ese Eja farmers who showed me their chacras and 
sold then farm produce on a regular basis to the river taxi heading to the market in Puerto 
Maldonado. Though the Ese Eja were described as the ones who hunt (and not the 
mestizos), I met several mestizo men who hunted regularly, and several Ese Eja men who 
asserted they rarely hunt at all. 

On the other hand, some of the stereotypes did have some empirical basis. When 
I compared mean annual incomes for different populations, and the mean number of 
hectares cleared for agriculture, I learned that the Ese Eja households in general earn less 
income per year, and they cultivate an average of fewer hectares of annual crops (thus 
arguably matching the stereotype that the mestizos are "more ambitious"). Tables 24 and 
25 below indicate the differences, both of which are statistically significant (at a p-value 


Table 24 Mean Annual Income: Ese Eja and Mestizo (or non-Ese Eja) 

Ethnic Group 

Non-Ese Eja 

Ese Eja 

Number of 



Mean Annual Income 

9,810 soles 
6,681 soles 

Standard Deviation 

6,818 soles 
5,441 soles 

t-stat = 2.530 p-value = 0.013 

Table 25 Mean Number of Hectares Cleared: Ese Eja and Mestizo (or non-Ese Eja) 

Ethnic Group 

Number of 

Mean number of 
hectares cleared (1998) 

Standard Deviation 

Non-Ese Eja 
Ese Eja 




t-stat = 2.885; p-value = 0.005 

The facts and fictions regarding "how the Ese Eja are" or "how the mestizos are" 
have been passed on through at least two generations in Infiemo, and as the alacrity with 
which people responded to my questions, and the consensus among them attests, they 
have generated widely held stereotypes. Like all stereotypes, the ideas do have some 
foundation of truth, and certainly twenty years ago, the differences between the different 
groups in Infiemo must have been much more marked. Whether or not the stereotypes 
remain empirically true today in Infiemo has done little to diminish their hold on people's 

Included in these two tables are only households in which the male and female heads were both either Ese 
Ejaornon Ese Eja. 


imaginations and prejudices. One man told me, "like oil and water, the mestizos and Ese 
Eja will never mix." 

As an outsider, I could not easily see or detect the differences between the Ese Eja 
and the mestizos, but I quickly learned how deeply felt they were by everyone in 
Infiemo. This led me to perceive ethnicity as something more than genetic, more than 
physiognomic, more than linguistic, but rather as something highly subjective, and thus 

Though ethnic differences were a source of great concern to people in Infiemo, I 
began to wonder if they would matter to tourists too. Would tourists have certain 
expectations about the people they were meeting on their visits? Did they have 
perceptions about who was "real" and who was "not real" in ways that matched the ideas 
of people in Mfiemo? Would tourists be disappointed to learn that not everyone involved 
in Posada Amazonas was an Ese Eja native? I suspected that if I found this to be the 
case, then tourists' expectations would ultimately affect how people characterized 
themselves ethnically in Infiemo. The highly subjective aspect of ethnicity would 
respond to tourism, and specifically, people in Infiemo would begin to act, perform, and 
embellish themselves in ways that matched tourists' expectations of ethnicity. 

To explore these ideas early in the research, before the lodge was built, I 
distributed questionnaires to tourists Rainforest Expeditions' other lodge upriver firom the 
fixture Posada Amazonas, the Tambopata Research Center. In the questionnaires, I 
described the fixture project and asked tomsts to rank how important it would be to know 
that a native Ese Eja versus a local mestizo was performing different tasks in the lodge. 
The scale the on questionnaire was from one to five, highest indicating that it "mattered a 


lot that the person performing the job was Ese Eja" and the lowest indicating that "it did 
not matter at all." Table 26 shows the results of the surveys. 

For positions such as housekeeper and cook, most tourists said they did not care 
whether or not the person performing the job was an Ese Eja. For positions such as guide 
or artisan, most tourists said they did care if the person was an Ese Eja. These latter 
positions are more strongly dependent on knowledge of local culture. The notion of 
authenticity in these positions is more important to tourists than it was in other positions. 
The important but unwritten implication of these scores is the idea that authenticity and 
culture are associated with the Ese Eja (and perhaps not with the mestizos). 

Table 26: Tourists' Responses to Importance of Ese Eja vs. Mestizo Participation 

Ways of Participating in Tourism Project 



Builder of lodge 

Supplier of food 


Boat driver 

Mean score on 5-point Likert-like scale 
l=not important that the person be Ese Eja; 
5= very important that the person be Ese Eja 











Cultural performer 




In addition to talkmg with the members of the community and the tourists about 
their perceptions of ethnicity in Infiemo, I also examined closely the marketing material 
produced by the Ke'eway Association. I found that the territory on which Posada 
Amazonas stood was newly called the "Ese Eja Indian Community" or the "Ese Eja 
Native Community" in the brochures and websites. While it is clear that the "Native 


Community of Infierno" is an unappealing name for a lodge (few tourists would jump at 

the opportunity to spend their vacation in a place called "Hell"), I think the marketing 

material is notable for more than the mere omission of a word. Rather, the insertion of 

the extra word, "Ese Eja," is of particular interest. 

To a large extent, the joint owners of Posada Amazonas have downplayed the 

cultural aspects of the project relative to the wildlife and natural history. In the 

stakeholder analysis of the first year, the owners of Rainforest Expeditions explained: 

"We do not intend for the project to use the community or the people 
themselves as the focus of attraction for tourists. Rather, we want to work 
with the community to develop the natural resources they have as a tourist 
attraction. We hope to capitalize on their natural resources more than on 
their cultural resources." 

This statement is supported by some of the marketing materials. One magazine 
advertisement for Posada Amazonas, in particular, is illustrative. It contained color 
photographs of macaws, capuchin monkeys, Giant otters, and a Harpy eagle with a 
caption that read: "Come meet some of our most frequent visitors. " The small gallery of 
pictures could have included an image of an Ese Eja man holding a bow and arrow, but it 
did not. Below the pictures, the lines continue: "In Posada Amazonas, you will find the 
perfect balance between wildlife and the richest tropical forests in America in a 
comfortable, secure, and authentic lodge ..." Though the word "authentic" is used here, 
there is no insmuation that "authentic" necessarily impUes "Ese Eja." 

It is true that the Native Community of Infiemo is home to many species of 
wildlife that are attractive to tourists, including Giant otters, three species of large 
macaws, camera-friendly dusky titi monkeys, the occasional Harpy eagle, and in rare 
cases, even white-lipped peccaries and jaguars (one in 1999, and one, lounging 30 meters 
up in tree, in February 2000). Yet what distinguishes Posada Amazonas from other 


lodges in Tambopata is liie fact that it is locally owned. This participatory feature alone 
would be enough to attract some tourists, particularly those who are socially conscious 
and hope that their dollars are somehow contributing to local livelihoods. But "local" can 
be made even more appealing to tourists by characterizing the local as not just local, but 
indigenous. Because of the popular perception that indigenous peoples live in harmony 
with nature, native communities are an easier sell to ecotourists than are colonist 

Perhaps for these reasons, some of the marketing materials have explicitly 
focused on the fact that Posada Amazonas is co-managed by native, Ese Eja (not mestizo) 
members of Infiemo. The website information, for example, includes the following: 

"Our lodge staff not only sets the regional standard for quality service but 
is also made up of a majority of Ese Eja community members, providing 

valuable income from tourism to their families There are many 

opportunities for cultural interaction with the Ese Eja: guided activities 
include ethnobotanical walks, visits to small scale farms, and other 
experiences we are developing in association with our native partners . . ." 
(italics mine). 

Though more than half of the regular staff at Posada Amazonas are not Ese Eja, they are 

omitted from the iuformation presented to tourists. 

From my interviews and conversations with commimity members, tourists, and 

Rainforest Expeditions, I began to discern a widespread perception that "culture" or 

"ethdcity" was the exclusive domain of the Ese Eja. The riberenos, and especially the 

Andean migrants in Infiemo, were somehow devoid of culture, at least of the kind that 

would be marketable for tourism. I began to suspect that tourism would create incentives 

to play up certain Ese Eja characteristics; and I became interested in how Ese Eja culture 

and ethnicity might be expressed in the context of tourism. The specific questions I had 


were: Who would be considered Ese Eja? Would some people acquire privilege over 
others because of their ethnicity? Would mestizos gain incentives to act Ese Eja? How 
would tourism affect the ethnic tensions already prevalent in Infiemo? 
Tourism and a New Consciousness of Identity 

The high school students from California squinted in the late morning sun as they 
watched the performance from their front-row seats on the porch. Quechuan music 
streamed from the small boom box while the young boys and girls from Inferno danced, 
their palm skirts rustling in unison. Like small warriors, the boys lifted half-sized bows 
and arrows above their heads, and the girls danced with squash gourds in their hands, 
drawing small arcs from left to right. In their hair, each child wore the bright orange tail 
feather of a scarlet macaw. The teacher clapped enthusiastically as she called out the 
steps. The performance was a thanks for the visitors who had brought a telescope and 
other new supplies for Infiemo 's primary school. 

Standing among the parents at the base of the porch, Don Rolando, an elder Ese 
Eja man, watched for a few moments, and then turned to walk away, his head shaking: 
"That is not anything Ese Eja. " 

. . . Later that evening, the students gathered to talk about their visit to the 
community. A young woman raised her hand, "I was a little uncomfortable looking 
down at the kids. I guess it made me feel too important. " 

"Yeah, " someone added, "it seemed like they were a little uncomfortable too. I 
wondered if they were just acting for us, I mean, in a way that they thought we wanted to 
them be. " 


"/ think it was nice they danced for us, " offered one of the parents, sitting in the 
back. "They obviously put a lot of preparation into it. " 

"True, " conceded a student beside me, "But what I liked best was playing soccer 
with everybody afterward. That felt more real. " 

Later in this chapter, I will provide some background to this story of the children 
dancing as natives and, as the student from California suggested, acting in a way they 
thought their guests might want. In the latter story, I will illustrate how people in 
Mfiemo — parents of the children who danced — are beginning to feel concerned that 
tourists will want them to look and act in particular "native" ways. 

For now, I turn to a theory-based discussion of how expectations from tourists can 
prompt changes in how locals perceive and value their ethnic traditions. This section will 
lead me to the punchline of this chapter, which is that values about ethnicity in Infiemo 
have already changed so much in the context of tourism that the Ese Eja and the 
mestizos, who have been sharing the same territory for more than twenty years, have 
begun a process of splitting from each other to form two separate commimities. This 
recent (as of 1999) development has not been caused by tourism alone, but it has 
accelerated significantly since tourism. 

The increased sensitivity to ethnic heritage and the need to define who's who is 
linked to the economic changes I described in the last chapter. Because people in 
Infiemo are competing for material gains from tourism, they are also vying for who is 
most worthy of such benefits. More than the promise of economic gain, tourism has also 
held a mirror to people, allowing for a resurgence of ethnic pride and a revalidation of 
tradition that, over twenty-five years of living with Andean and ribereno populations, has 


been repressed. Many community members in Infiemo believe tourists want to see real 
natives; and so now they are reconsidering what that means: Who is authentic, and who is 
not? Who has culture, and who does not? 

As I mentioned earlier, many observers of the project in Infiemo feared that 
tourism would cause people to lose their ethnic identity as they adopted lifestyles and 
values of outsiders. When the members of the community signed the contract with 
Rainforest Expeditions, a network of outsiders, especially anthropologists and 
development specialists in the non-profit sector, were highly vocal in their opposition. 
They argued that the influx of tourists to Infiemo would erode the indigenous identity of 
the Ese Eja (see Chapter 3). 

At least so far, tourism in Infiemo seems to be having the opposite effect on 
cultural identity. In the short time since the introduction of tourism, people in Infiemo 
have gained a new appreciation for their ethnic heritage, and this has been coupled by an 
increase in tension between peoples of different ethnic descent. Though it is tme that 
encounters with tourists in many places have influenced locals to dismiss their own 
values and traditions in favor of others', tourism in Infiemo seems to be having the 
reverse effect. Men and women are playing up their ethnicity, and they are doing so in a 
way that they openly anticipate will be perceived by visitors as somehow authentic. 

This is a strange turn of events. For years, the Ese Eja have been told that their 
beliefs and practices are antiquated and backward. They have been made to feel 
embarrassed, foolish, or ashamed to speak their own language, live by their most 
traditional practices, or simply look and behave in ways that are distinctly Ese Eja (see 
Alexiades and Didier 1996; Chavarria and Garcia 1993). Now, with tourism, many of the 


Ese Eja in Infiemo are considering the possibility that a return to the past may be the best 
path to a prosperous future. 

As the Ese Eja are gaining a newfound sense of pride and entitlement, the 
impHcation has been a re-drawing of ethnic lines between those who are truly native and 
those who are not. Though the Ese Eja and their non-indigenous neighbors have been 
living together for more than two decades, and although they agreed to build and manage 
the ecotourism lodge together, now they are having new debates about who has a right to 
what resources, and more pointedly, who is most deserving of the new benefits from 

The Connection between Tourism and Ethnic Identity 
i Infiemo is not the first place in the world where tourism has prompted a change in 
ethnic identity, and, of course, I am not the fnst anthropologist to be considering how 
ethnicity and tourism might be linked. In fact, many of the major questions that have 
concerned cultural anthropologists, particularly those related to ethnic identity, tradition, 
and culture change, have appeared in the study of tourism. Using the lens of tourism, 
anthropologists have asked: How is ethnicity represented and how is it perceived (Bruner 
1987, 1995; Nunez 1989; Urry 1990)? How are ethnic traditions changed or reinvented 
over time (Bendix 1 989; Leong 1989), and what distinguishes genuine culture from 
spurious (Boorstin 1 961 , 1 964)? In what ways can ethnic identity be constructed and 
manipulated (Evans-Pritchard 1989; Van den Berghe 1994)? How do values about 
culture and ethnicity change once they are marketed for consumption by tourists (Cohen 
1988; Greenwood 1977, 1989)? ' 


Intercultural contact and the changes that result from it, or "acculturation," has 
been an especially pervasive theme in the study of tourism (Nash 1 996). An early 
example came from Nunez (1963) who described tourism as a "laboratory situation" for 
testing how accultiu-ation occurs when urban tourists representing "donor" cultures 
interact with host populations in "recipient" cultures (p. 347). Though few 
anthropologists today would use the term "acculturation" (mainly because it connotes a 
narrow and unihneal view of change between old and new, fraditional and modem), 
many anthropologists have expressed concern over the loss of values from tourism (e.g., 
Chicchon 1995, Erisman 1989; McLaren 1999; Nunez 1989; Rossel 1988; Seiler- 
Baldinger 1988). The concept behind the term is still very present in public and 
academic discourses relating to tourism in indigenous societies. Acculturation is what 
many fear will happen to people with the intrusion of tourists, consumerism, and the 
conunodification of culture. 

Tourism is seen as driving culture change in a couple of ways. One is through the 
introduction of outsiders and commodities. Erisman (1989) has argued that the massive 
influx of foreign goods, people, and ideas to rural host destinations has a negative impact, 
which, ultimately, "erodes people's self-esteem" (p. 350). Tourism, in this view, leads to 
"cultural dependency" in which local people gain economic benefits, but only as they are 
catering to the needs of outsiders. Loss of identity occurs in this scenario as the local 
economy improves, and hosts begin to act and think like tourists, whom they perceive as 
superior in every way.^ 

' In other studies as well, commodities have been seen as an especially corruptive force among 
indigenous peoples. Reed (1995) has noted that commodities are perceived as pulling people 
"deeper into the dark vortex of commercial activities and spewing them out on the other side of 


A second way tourism is seen as affecting local identity is through the 
conveyance of expectations. According to this view, tourists seek authentic experiences 
in their travels and thus place expectations on locals to look and behave in ways that are 
authentically indigenous or ethnic. The problem is that authenticity is a subjective 
concept, and tourists often define for themselves what is authentic, relying on popular 
stereotypes as points of reference rather than on historical or ethnographic facts (Adams 
1984; Crick 1989). Boorstin (1961) has described encounters between tourists and locals 
as "pseudo-events" that are based on what tourists choose to see rather than on what is 
really there. What tourists choose to see is, in turn, strongly influenced by the marketing 
efforts of tour operators (Silver 1 993) and the popular media (Urry 1 990). In an analysis 
of travel brochures, Rossel (1988) found "exaggerations, misleading statements, and lies" 
that provided a certain way of understanding the reality, and that offered the "tourist 
view" (p. 5). Indeed, Adams (1984) has argued that brochures and travel agents 
essentially provide tourists with a first glimpse of the locals through "prepackaged ethnic 
stereotypes," which later will be either reified or dismantled during the tourists' journeys 
(p. 470). 

In theory, tourists' stereotypes are transmitted to locals through what Urry (1990) 
has called "the tourist gaze." The idea is that tourists wield power through the way they 
look at locals and expect them to appear and behave. In turn, locals acquiesce to the gaze 
by miiToring back images they hope will please tourists. The long-term implication is 
that locals will maintain, or at least, act out, traditions they are sure will satisfy and attract 
more tourists. Indeed, locals may consciously try to match visitors' expectations of what 

the ethnic boundary into the harsh light of national societies and the international economy" 
(p. 137). 


is authentic, even if the results seem contrived or fake. Evans-Pritchard (1 989) wrote of a 
Native American woman who felt she had to "look 'Indian' in order to be accepted as 
authentic by the tourists on whose dollars she depends" (p. 97). Cohen (1979) described 
locals who "play the natives" to live up to the tourists' image (p. 1 8). 

This "playing up" is not in itself a negative trend. If the tourist gaze does indeed 
have power to transform the identity of the people gazed upon, then, some scholars argue, 
tourism has as much potential to revive old values as it does to destroy them. Smith 
(1982), for example, has found that tourism may "serve to reinforce ethnic identity" (p. 
26). Also, Mansperger (1 995) has suggested that tourism "can help native people 
maintain their identity" (p. 92). According to Cohen (1 988), tourism can become "a 
vehicle of self-representation " (p. 383), and therefore people may choose to re-invent 
themselves through tourism, modifying how they are seen and perceived, especially in 
efforts to suit the interests of themselves or of the people gazing back at them. In this 
vein, Van den Berghe (1994) has suggested that tourism caa lead to "a renaissance of 
native cultures or the recreation of ethnicity" (p. 1 7). ■* 

One can only talk about "playing up" ethnicity if ethnicity is defined as something 
changeable and subject to manipulation. But not everyone defmes ethnicity in this way. 


Two especially interesting stadies have exemplified how locals change to please tourists. In a study of 
tourism's influence in southem Austria, Gamper (1981) found that people changed even their clothes for 
tourism. In normal routines, locals were wearing outfits typical of any other place in Europe, but during the 
tourist season, people became conscious of the need to don traditional costumes. Yet even the costimies 
were changed for tourists: though originally brown, black, and white, a bright red vest was added later 
because, as one informant explained, "Red looks better on Kodachrome." (p. 439). In another study, Albers 
and James (19843) examined 600 postcard images of Native Americans issued between 1900 and 1970. 
They discovered that the images changed with the growth of tourism in the American West, and that 
representations of Indians were increasingly tailored to match tourists' expectations. The most striking 
change was the disappearance of images that showed Indians in their normal surroundings aud everyday 
dress. Increasingly, the pictures conformed to a stereotypic image, "derived from the equestrian, buffalo- 
hunting, and tipi-dwelling Indians of the nineteenth century" (p. 136). See Mamiya (1992) for a similar 


For some scholars, ethnicity is an objective and observable phenomenon, defined by 
patterns of behavior and expression; for others, ethnicity is subjective, comprised of 
values, beliefs, and ways of perceiving the world that are not necessarily visible to 

In the first approach, ethnicity is taken as a biological product of inheritance, 
passed down through blood and genes. In this view, what joins people of the same 
"ethnos" or biological groups is "race" and "the characteristics of the body, that most 
palpable element of one's persona" (Peterson et al. 1980:5). People belonging to the 
same ethnic group necessarily share a common descent, but they also share a language 
and a relatively fixed set of social customs, including religious practices, marriage rules, 
etc. (NaroU 1964; Nash 1989). Ethnic identity, according to this paradigm, is something 
children acquire early in hfe as part of their normal development and socialization; it is 
not something they reconstruct or invent latter in Ufe. 

When we focus solely on the genetic characteristics of ethnicity, then it becomes 
something people either have it or they do not. Susan Paulson (1 997) has observed that 
ethnicity is often treated simplistically as quaUties of human bodies. Similarly, Jean 
Jackson (1995) has argued that ethnic groups are typically described as possessing 
culture, just as animal species have fur or claws — a person "'has' culture, an entity that 
can be lost, enriched, or stolen" (p. 16). The maintenance or loss of such traits is 
believed to be strongly linked to the respective survival or assimilation of an ethnic 
group. Les Field (1994) described etimic traits as "the 'essences' of being Indian that 
fimction as Cartesian coordinates against which the degree of 'Mdianness' of a group can 


be determined" (p. 238). In sum, ethnicity in this view is fixed, and certain traits are 
logically and visibly connected to particular ethnic groups. 

Many scholars have considered the socially constructed, versus the purely 
biological, side of ethnicity. Max Weber (1968) was one of the earliest proponents of the 
notion that ethnicity is subjective. He wrote, "We shall call 'ethnic groups' those human 
groups that entertain a subjective belief in their common descent because of similarities . 
. . or because of memories . . . conversely, it does not matter whether or not an objective 
blood relationship exists (p. 389). This different focus implies a move away from 
talking about ethnic identity as highly fluid rather than fixed, subjective rather than 
objective, and extremely adaptive rather than merely bom into; in this view, ethnicity is 
less something someone has, like blue eyes or brown skin, and more something someone 
does with varying levels of consciousness. 

Lynn Stephens (1996) has argued that ethnicity is "a creative and improvisational 
process, fluid and ever-changing (p. 1 8). The persistence of ethnicity through time and 
space is more than the biological transmittal of genes; it is the product of consciously 
creating and recreating what it means to be Sioux, Welsh, or Ese Eja. Paulson (1997) has 
portrayed, for example, how the ethnic identity of a Bolivian woman can change in the 
course of just one day, depending on the task at hand. She writes, "Throughout the long 
day of cooking, serving, digging, harvesting and sorting potatoes, Faustina lives with her 
femaleness and her Mizqueness in the way she administers and performs each task ... In 
the late afternoon, however, her identity shifts as she enters into transport negotiations 
with a mestizo trucker" (p. 1). This characterization of continuously changing ethnicity 


contrasts with the notion that people are bom into one, and only one, ethnic group that 
marks them throughout their lives. 

The view that ethnicity is continuously recreated rather than innate and fixed has 
been called "instrumentalist." Instrumentalists say that ethnicity can serve a function in a 
person's life, or even in achieving the goals of a group. Fredrik Barth (1969, 1975, 1994) 
has argued that a key function of ethnicity is to maintain boundaries. In this view, people 
consciously construct ethnic boundaries in order to achieve particular goals. These 
boundaries can be subjective, ideological, symbolic, and not necessarily readily identified 
by outsiders— basically, the function of the boundaries is to keep insiders in and outsiders 

hi this thesis, I have combined the idea that ethnicity is subjective and 
changeable, with the theory that ethnic groups maintain boundaries in conscious ways. 
The logical extension of these two ideas is that people can shape and manipulate ethnicity 
to accommodate certain situations or to achieve particular goals. Similar to what I will 
explain is happening in Infiemo, Jackson (1995) has argued that the Tukanoan Indians of 
Colombia have begun to retam their Indian identity because they increasingly feel the 
need to "demonstrate Indianness" in order to obtain benefits fi-om both government and 
nongovernmental organizations. Similarly, Cohen (1981) has written that ethnicity is "the 
result of intensive struggle between groups over new strategic positions of power 
places of employment, taxation, funds for development, education, political position, 
etc." From these examples, the conscious expression of ethnicity has primarily to do 
with competition, politics, and economics. The implication is that ethnicity can be 
mobilized to achieve material gains. 


A consequence of the view that ethnicity can be manipulated as a resource to gain 
something is that any expression of ethnicity can then be construed as fake ploys to 
achieve political or economic advantage. For example, contributors to James Clifton's 
(1 990) edited volume, The Invented Indian, have criticized some Native Americans, who 
the authors refer to as "counterfeits of the past," for fabricating their Indianness to gain 
government favors (see Deloria, 1992 for a strong rebuttal). 

Some researchers suggest that indigenous peoples have purposely mobilized a 

"noble savage" identity to attain rights to land and other resources. Sam Gill (1990), for 

example, asserts that indigenous peoples have consciously linked themselves to the 

symbolic icon of Mother Earth. He writes, 

"Indians in recent decades have, through their appropriation of Mother Earth, 
attached to her the qualities that articulate distinctively 'Indian' in contrast and 
clearly superior to 'white' American attributes. Indians are of the earth; they care 
for and nurture Mother Earth, who in turn cares for and nurtures them" (p. 142). 

With similar reasoning, Redford and Stearman (1993) have stated that some indigenous 
peoples have "presented themselves uncritically as 'natural conservationists' . . . because 
they recognize the power of this concept in rallying support for their struggle for land 
rights" (p. 25 1 ). Evidence of this are the many times and places in which indigenous 
groups have argued that they are the appropriate caretakers of endangered areas 

It is true tbat if we alter our definitioii of ethnicity to include more and more of the subjective, invisible, 
and malleable traits, we make it increasingly difficult to distinguisb the genuine from spurious, the 
authentic from the contrived. A body literature on "cultural fictions," rooted in Anderson's ( 1 983) 
Imagined Communities, Hobsbawn and Ranger' s ( 1 983) Invented Traditions, and Sollors' ( 1 984) Invented 
Ethnicity has touched upon these issues. 


If we believe locals give iji to the tourist gaze by projecting creatively tailored 
images of themselves to outsiders, then an examination of stereotypes can offer a preview 
of what's to come from tourism. In other words, an understanding of outsiders' and 
tourism industry stereotypes should illuminate how locals are prone to change in the 
context of tourism. In the case of Infiemo, stereotypical views of Amazonian Indians, 
particularly ones that characterize their relationship with nature as harmonious, seems to 
have influenced how community members in Infiemo are beginning to reshape their 
images for visitors. 

In The Tourist , Dean MacCannell has argued that tourists are motivated to travel 
primarily because they thirst for authentic experiences (see also Harkin 1995; Redfoot 
1984). This longing for authenticity is especially acute in modem societies where people 
feel alienated and in need of respite from the monotony of their lives. Therefore, tourists 
seek out places that offer "the pristine, the primitive, the natural, that which is as yet 
untouched by modernity" (Cohen 1 988:374). In the popular travel literature, the Amazon 
has been portrayed as such an idyllic escape from the modem world. Travelers are 
promised the chance to catch a glimpse of a simpler past in what is yet a Garden of 
Eden.* In these places, Dobkin de Rios (1994) has suggested, tourists are especially 
eager to find the "the exotic, erotic primitive or happy savage" (p. 6). 

Tales of boat journeys down the Amazon have been especially evocative of this 
image. Whittell (1987) remembers "gliding gracefully through a pristine, primeval forest 

Qa the flip-side of Eden is a vision of the Amazon as a dangerous place. In the 1 980s, numerous articles 
appeared in popular sports magazines, encouraging travelers to fear the Amazon even as tiiey were enticed 
to explore it (see Blount 1987; Buckley 1987). In this "adventure travel" genre, auliienticity was 
necessarily defined by danger. 


that still harbors Indian tribes whose ways have changed little since the stone age" (p. 38). 

An article called "Adrift on the Amazon" appeared in a popular women's magazine 

describing a night in the rainforest as a return to the past: 

"As the moon lit its exterior, the embers of a cooking fire made its interior 
glow in the softest, richest rose. A man was picking at a guitar. 
Hammocks swayed. A baby cried. There was a pot over the fire. We were 
drifting by mankind's primordial home" (Hamilton 1987:66). 

Ecotourists who are especially conservation-minded may want to see indigenous 
peoples because so often natives have been portrayed as ideal allies in efforts to protect 
rain forests and other threatened environments (Hecht 1989; Redford 1990; Schmink 
1992). Darryl Posey (1988), for example, has argued, "The world is threatened not just 
with the loss of tropical ecosystems but with the loss of peoples who know how to use 
them, whose ideas and knowledge may be the richest of all tropical resources" (p. 90). In 
a book offering quotations from indigenous peoples around the world, Native Wisdom 
for White Minds , readers are reminded, "Native cultures have much to teach us. They 
know how to live in balance with themselves, with each other, with nature and with the 
earth" (Schaef 1995:9). Much of the marketing material produced in the ecotourism 
industry emphasizes these kinds of links between indigenous peoples and harmony with 

These are images that were created specifically for travel magazines and the 
tourist market. In many cases, tourists carry such images with them, like so much added 
baggage, and then consciously or not, they convey expectations for locals to match the 
stereotypes. Ultimately, the perceived quality of a tourist destination, based in part on 


whether the tourists feel they saw what they came to see, is directly linked to locals' 
abilities to match preconceived or prepackaged notions of the natives. 
The Reflection of Tourists' Views in Infiemo 

So far in this chapter, I have explained that tourists come with expectations of the 
authentic, and their perceptions of authenticity are defined largely by marketing materials 
(brochures, websites, etc.) produced by the tourism industry. An especially popular 
image among ecotourists to the Amazon is that of the noble savage, or native person who 
lives in harmony with the natural environment. In the case of Infiemo, "authentic" has 
been defined by the ecotourism joint venture as "Ese Eja" or "native." The question then 
becomes, so what? What is the effect of influencing tourists to believe that authenticity 
va Infiemo is defined by the quality of being Ese Eja? 

Grabum (1976) has written that tourists recognize ethnicity as "a small bundle of 
overt features." These are features that get exaggerated by the market, and sometimes 
they feed back into the host community, changing locals' sense of who they are, or who 
they think they should be, or at the very least, who they think outsiders think they should 

Because Posada Amazonas is locally-managed tourism project, people in Infiemo 
are not only the subjects of brochures, they are also active participants in determining 
what is being said and depicted about them. This became especially apparent to me one 
afternoon when I was showing a small stack of photographs to Diego, a young Ese Eja 
man who had been deeply involved in the tourism project from the beginning, and was 
now serving on the Ecotourism Committee. One of the photographs in the stack 
portrayed Gustavo, an Ese Eja man in his 40's, dressed in a traditional tunic called a 
cushma, clutching a bow and arrow, and looking directly at the camera. Diego studied 


the picture for a few moments, and then, holding it up for better perspective, declared, 
"This will be great for the brochure!" 

I was immediately taken aback, for I had not once considered using the 
photograph for a brochure. Though I could see that it was a provocative image, it was 
one that Gustavo had requested I shoot for his own use, not for public consumption. 
Later, I thought about Diego's comment, and how much it revealed, in so few words, his 
consciousness of public image, his awareness of tourists' desire for the authentic, and his 
knowledge of the fact that Infiemo had become a place to be seen, and in that way, 
consumed. I realized also that not everyone in Infiemo perceived things in the same way 
Diego had, and perhaps that was precisely the pomt: Diego had been involved in tourism 
from the beginning, and his involvement had already somehow influenced his sense of 
self, and his desire to project the "right image" to tourists, one that would be perceived as 
ethnically authentic and adorned with the appropriate accoutrements of Ese Eja culture. 

Diego may represent an extreme case of heightened awareness about tourists' 
expectations of authenticity, but he is not alone. As Posada Amazonas has gained 
success, and as the community has received more attention from tourists, photographers, 
researchers, and other outsiders, people in Infiemo have begim to talk more and more 
about reviving their culture, especially their Ese Eja culture. In the four years I watched 
tourism take hold in Infiemo, and even though tourists were not visiting residential areas 
of the community, I noticed changes in how people began to discuss their ethnicity and 
the differences among them. To me, the changes revealed an increased consciousness of 
ethnic self and identity, and a greater concern for who was truly native, and what that 


implied for how people should look, speak, act, and think, especially before the expectant 
gazes of tourists. 

The words of Rosa, a ribereno mother of five children with mixed ethnic 
heritages, summed it up simply: "We cannot disappoint tourists who have come to see 
hidians." Another woman of Ese Eja origin added, "We're living like any community, 
and not like the native community that we are. Now we want everyone to know our 

Ethnic differences were akeady assumed, felt, and discussed on a normal basis 
before tourism became a factor in hifiemo. As I described in the beginning of this 
chapter, people had no difficulty explaining for me the differences between the Ese Eja 
and the mestizos. Yet, now that tourism has become more important to the livelihoods of 
many families in Infiemo, the concern over ethnic differences seems even more 
pronounced. In particular, there is growing fear that one group, the Ese Eja, might be 
(and some think, should be) especially favored by tourists. They seem to believe that it is 
not enough to be Ese Eja in whatever form; but rather that a true Ese Eja should look a 
certain way so as to match the tourists' brochure, or the conservationists' ideal of the 
ecologically noble savage, or the anthropologists' ethnographic studies, or some other 
outside image that has been projected on them in recent years. 

"Cultural Rescue" in Infiemo 

Since the mid- 1 980s, Infiemo has been host to a project for promoting traditional 
healing. Adopting its name from an ancestral Ese Eja healer, the "Centro Nape" project 
consists of a small complex of thatched buildings and a forest nursery with nearly one 
hundred species of medicinal plants (Alexiades and Didier 1996). Shamans and healers 
from spiritual traditions throughout the region have visited Centro Nape over the years to 


participate in workshops and ceremonies aimed at promoting the knowledge and use of 
natural remedies. 

Initially, Centre Nape was designed to improve health conditions in native 
communities throughout Madre de Dios by encouraging people to learn about and use 
locally available herbal remedies to treat everyday ailments. In recent years, the Center 
has become the locus of efforts to remember and revive Ese Eja traditions and practices. 
Activities have included an Ese Eja language workshop, special gatherings for Ese Eja 
only members of the community, and a project to collect photographs and recorded songs 
and stories from Ese Eja elders. A 1999 proposal written by the community-based 
managers of Centro Nape outlined plans to link ecotourism with these efforts at "cultural 
rescue." Though Ese Eja leaders and elders have expressed concern about "selling out" 
to tourists or commodifying their culture, they nevertheless hope to finance their ongoing 
efforts at Centro Nape by allowing tourists to visit their project and learn about Ese Eja 
culture and tradition. 

The leaders of Centro Nape, and of the cultural rescue project seem certain 
tourists want to see real natives, and that the Ese Eja are the most authentically so in 
Lifiemo, at least compared to the mestizos. One man described cultural rescue as 
important to live up to how the commimity had marketed themselves as the Ese Eja 
community. "We want to acknowledge the cultural differences between us," he said, "In 
fact, that could be another kind of attraction." He then suggested that they would need to 
dress appropriately, adding, "Though we won't be wearing our traditional costumes 


The fact that the Ese Eja want to emphasize their indigenous identity is reflected 
even in the name of the proposed new facility at Centro Nape: "Centro EtnoCultural 
Indigena Ese Eja," which translates to "Ese Eja EthnoCultural Indigenous Center." The 
name is so packed with words that connote authenticity, cultural heritage, and tradition; it 
seems to say "here is where culture can be found in Infiemo." 

Even outside of Centro Nape, and outside the circle of leaders promoting the idea 
of "cultural rescue," I found three main indicators of renewed interest in Ese Eja cultural 
heritage, especially in the last year of the research. It seemed in general that widespread 
interest in Ese Eja tradition surged as the community itself became more involved in 
tourism. (Though it may also be that I was simply more attuned to "cultural rescue" 
latter in the research than I was m the beginning.) 

One particularly noticeable trend in the third year of field work was an intensified 
concern to learn from the Ese Eja elders. It seemed that more and more people were 
speaking with urgency about the need to collect tape recordings and photographs. An 
Ese Eja elder who knew many of the traditional songs and stories of the group had died in 

1 997, and there was a sense that time was running out. In 1 996, the young Ese Eja 
leaders of the cultural rescue project talked about the need to learn from the elders, but by 

1998, many more men and women were saying the same things. 

I remember one evening in particular when I was sitting with Gustavo, the Ese 
Eja man who had donned the cushma and asked to be photographed (latter, the image was 
the one that provoked Diego to comment that it would be "perfect for the brochure.") As 
Gustavo and I talked, we watched his young nephews just meters from us playing 
Brazilian and American pop music on a boom box. Every ten minutes or so, they would 


shine the dim light of a flashlight on the box, change the frequency, and readjust the 

volume. At one point, Gustavo lifted his chin in the direction of the boys and remarked 

that no but Don Julio remembers the old songs the Ese Eja. Silent for a few moments, he 

added, "No one remembers the dances either." 

On a different day, I had an opportunity to talk with Don Julio himself I told him 

what Gustavo had said, and as we sat looking at the river, he lamented: 

"Those who were bom here are not Ese Eja. They look like mestizos. 
They don't speak the language, only Spanish. There are only a few of us 
who still speak. Little by little, we are finishing." 

Gustavo's and Don Julio's concerns about loss of Ese Eja memory would be 
repeated to me again and again in the last year of fieldwork. This was a difference from 
1 996 — in that year, most people told me they could speak only a few words of Ese Eja, 
that they were not as fluent as their grandparents or neighbors. Just two years later, many 
of the people assured me they were strongly fluent.^ 

A second indicator of increased interest in reviving Ese Eja culture that 

corresponded with increased tourism in Infiemo was the discussion of intellectual 

property. Though the Ese Eja leaders of the "cultural rescue" project said they do want 

tourists to visit the proposed "Centro EtnoCultural Indigena Ese Eja," they are also 

apprehensive. In particular, they are wary of commercializing or exploiting their own 

cultural traditions for mere consumption by tourists. One leader of the project, an 

especially thoughtful Ese Eja man full of concern for his people, offered this insight: 

"The tourism project should not collect knowledge of the Ese Eja. It would not be 
good for us because the lodge is part of Western society. They [the company and 

^ I could attribute this to the several things: 1 ) they were always fluent, but ashamed to tell me, or did not 
know me well enough to tell me in the first year; 2) they were never fluent, but wanted to be so in 1 998; 3) 
they were never fluent, but wanted me to think they were; 4) tliey were not fluent in 1 996, but had become 
fluent by 1 998. Any of these answers (except maybe the first) provides fiirther evidence that concem for 
cultural rescue and pride in Ese Eja cultural heritage had increased ia a matter of just a couple of years. 


the tourists] would take our knowledge and then gain the most from it. We must 
be prepared to do cultural rescue for ourselves, collecting stories and songs for 
our own children." 

In 1997, two Ese Eja brothers were hired by filmmakers to assist with and appear 

in the documentary film, "Candamo," which featured a few minutes of footage in 

Infiemo. After the fiJm had been completed and aired to a national audience, the brothers 

were criticized by several members of the community, for selling native culture without 

first gaining prior consent from the other Ese Eja members of the group. 

The treatment of Ese Eja culture as intellectual property had existed in Infiemo 
even before tourism began there, and these concerns about commodifying culture and 
who has a right to share cultural knowledge of the Ese Eja with any agents of the outside 
world were debated before any marketing brochures were created or any tourists came 
with their expectations of the noble savage. The grassroots indigenous federation in 
Puerto Maldonado, FENAMAD (Federacion Nativa deMadre deDios), and its national 
sponsor for indigenous rights were instrumental in introducing the concept of intellectual 
property to Infiemo and to other native communities throughout Pern. 

Yet, when Rainforest Expeditions and Infiemo signed the joint venture contract in 
1996, the leaders of FENAMAD and their supporters (mostly anthropologists and 
indigenous rights activists) emphasized even more the importance of protecting Ese Eja 
culture from the potential commodification and mass expropriation that might occur in 
the context of tourism. The advice of outside advisors and supporters of Ese Eja leaders 
in Infiemo has continued to influence the ways in which people talk about "culture" as 
"property" and who has a right to its use and representation in the context of tourism. 

A third trend, and this is perhaps the most significant indicator of renewed pride 
in Ese Eja culture, is the fact that even mestizos in Infiemo have begun to identify 


themselves as natives. Such a premium has become attached to Ese Eja identity in [ 

Infiemo — ^in part, because of the marketing materials, in part because of what outside ) 



supporters (anthropologists and others) have said, in part because of what tourists were \ 

expressing in their expectations-that even people who had not a drop of Ese Eja blood, 

or who had never defined themselves as Ese Eja, had begim to characterize themselves as 

native. I 


This switch of identity was especially startling when the man who began calling \ 

himself native in 1 998 was the same man who had highly derogatory words to say about \ 

the Ese Eja in 1 997. In fact, everyone in his family had negative descriptions of the \ 

natives in comparison with the mestizos. One comment, from his father, for example, j 

was "When the Ese Eja sell something, they money disappears quickly because they 

drink a lot. Sometimes then they have to steal." 

This man's change of heart about the Ese Eja, and, ultimately, his change in self- 


identity occurred when he began working in a position at Posada Amazonas that gave t 

him a tremendous amount of daily exposure to tourists. After discovering that tourists 1 

wanted to learn about his traditions as a native of the region, he found it advantageous to i 

accommodate their perceptions of who he was. Indignant when I questioned his decision 
and motives, he said, "Well, I was bom here, and so I've always considered myself a 
native." Of course, his point was valid: it did not matter that he was not Ese Eja — ^he was ; 

nonetheless native. He knew enough about local flora and fauna, social history and ; 

mythology of the area to fill several hours of conversation with tourists (relying on the 
help of a translator). He was not void of culture, and it did not make sense for him to 


dilute somehow the perceived authenticity of his being by revealing to tourists that he 
was not precisely "native" in the way that they might have thought he was. 

Not only the people working at the lodge, but also some community members 
who rarely interacted with tourists were beginning to consider a change in their identity. 
At a meeting to plan for the future of development in Infiemo, a leader of the "cultural 
rescue" project addressed the importance of incorporating mestizos in the project. He 
had sensed that there was growing resentment about the exclusiveness of the Ese Eja- 
only endeavor. Looking at the mestizos in the group, he said, "We want to involve 
everyone. Little by little, the Ese Eja culture can be adopted by everybody." At that, a 
mestizo in the group responded, "Yes, we can dance like Ese Eja, use the clothes, learn to 
speak the language." And another mestizo added, "Yes, I feel completely Ese Eja. 
We've been living as one family for 25 years now." These comments helped convince 
me not only of the subjective nature of ethnicity, but also of the possibility that people in 
Infiemo were begiiming to manipulate their own ethnic identities to take advantage of 
new opportunities for material benefit, privilege, and prestige in Infiemo, particularly 
those that were being presented through tourism. 

The three indicators of renewed (or new) pride in Ese Eja culture I have 
mentioned are 1) heightened concern to learn from the elders, particularly their language, 
stories, and songs, 2) interest in presenting various aspects of Ese Eja culture to tourists, 
coupled with debates over intellectual property rights, and who has a right to represent 
and gain from the sale, consumption, and distribution of Ese Eja cultural knowledge, 3) 
adoption of Ese Eja identity by non-Ese Eja members of the community. 


In an earlier section of this chapter, I included a short vignette about the 
presentation of a dance to tourists. M that story, an elder Ese Eja man who was watching 
the dance commented with some frustration, "That is not an)^hing Ese Eja." The next 
vignette below, recorded in July 1999, provides background to that story, and should 
illustrate the newly conscious effort in Infiemo to match the expectations of tourists: 

One afternoon after classes had finished, and the children had gone home, the 
senior school teacher in Infiemo met with the Ese Eja and mestizo members of the 
Family Parents Association. A big item on the agenda was to plan a performance for a 
special group of visitors (students from an international environmental education 
program). The parents started the meeting by talking about what costumes the children 
should wear — the idea was that they would be dancing for the visitors. Several parents 
suggested designs and materials, and their ideas seemed to emanate from some 
reservoir of perceptions about what the tourists might want to see. What kinds of palms, 
seeds, the shape? How should the boys ' costumes differ from the girls '? 

Fifteen minutes into the discussion, the teacher pulled from her bag a cassette 
tape decorated with the photograph of an Indian man. "He may be from Pucallpa, " she 
contemplated aloud. And then holding up the picture, she reminded everyone of this 
important point: "They must also have their bows and arrows. " 

At that point, Pablo, an Ese Eja man who had begun to sell bows and arrows to 
the tourists, murmured from the back, "But they have to be from this area, what the Ese 
Eja really use. " 


The Ethnic SpUt 

"The Ese Eja, we know the science of the natural world, of how to live. 
We have the legacy of our ancestors, the ones who know. The mestizos 
are in zero. Ifthey know anything, it is because of us. We the natives 
know everything, all of the animals . . . because of the moon, the sun, we 
are never lost. We are timid, but our minds are always working." 

-Ese Eja man, 45 years old, Infiemo, 1997 

"The Ese Eja have the custom of living in tranquility. They only hunt and 
fish, and they harvest j^ona, huasai, aguaje, ungurahui, and hojas. They 
do not work in the chacra, and they do not work when it is hot. We the 
mestizos are dedicated to agriculture. I have been ever since my 
childhood, like my father. They say the mestizos have no voice, and no 
vote. I think we do have a voice and a vote. We are equal." 

- Quechua-speaking immigrant, 42 years old, Infiemo, 1997 

Though the playing up of ethnic tradition by the Ese Eja is a positive trend in that 
it has lead to a resurgence (or, for some, a first-ever feeling) of ethnic pride, in other 
ways, it has exacerbated old tensions in the community. The tourism project does not 
mark the first time ethnic conflict has arisen in Infiemo. Nearly two decades ago, the 
mestizos and the Ese Eja discussed splitting over debates regarding who had rights to a 
loan from the Agrarian Bank. Notes from the community's official archives also indicate 
that, just three years after the community had been officially titled, one of the commimity 
members asked the general assembly if the mestizos could separate from the Ese Eja. 
The notes describe a protracted discussion over whether a mestizo could serve on the 
governing council — in 1979 they decided that yes, a mestizo should be allowed to serve 
on the council; otherwise the mestizos would split from the community. 

Though the conflicts are deeply rooted, tourism seems to be causing an 
accentuation of difference in the community. Neither side wants to stop working together 


at Posada Amazonas nor in other community projects. Each side claims to be the victim, 
or the one most discriminated against. Both sides think the other is receiving preferential 
treatment in hiring for the lodge. One Ese Eja man told me that the mestizos should have 
no right to work in the lodge, that the lodge should belong only to the Ese Eja. When I 
asked about the mestizos who signed the contract and helped build the lodge ("Should 
they benefit as well?"), he said, "We can pay them for their time, but after that, they 
should be excluded from the project." The mestizos, in turn, argue that they invested all 
the labor, and now the Ese Eja are being favored. As one woman argued, "The mestizos 
helped more in building the lodge, but now the Ese Eja are being hired." 

As a solution to these debates (and to earlier ones accumulated over twenty 
years), the Ese Eja have announced they want to separate from the mestizos, and move 
upriver to live as they please. They have decided that their children may attend school 
with mestizos as always, but in the evenings, they will return to the Ese Eja-only sector of 
community. They want to have settlers title their lands separately, and the few mestizos 
who are surrounded by Ese Eja will either be relocated or become islands. 

The question of who will be included in the Ese Eja portion of the soon-to-be- 
divided community, and how they will decide, or even who will decide is unclear. Some 
leaders say they will follow the rule of patrilineal descent (i.e., only children of Ese Eja 
fathers will be considered truly Ese Eja). This accommodates many of the leaders who 
have parented children with non-Ese Eja women. Yet, even among the leaders, the rules 
are confusing: some people who are not Ese Eja by descent, will be entitled to join the 
Ese Eja enclave if they share similar beliefs and concerns about the community. 



Anthropologists have argued that the gaze of tourists is influential in determining 
how hosts look, behave, and feel. The case of Infiemo suggests that hosts can, and often 
do also play a role in determining what happens in host-guest interactions. Especially 
when making decisions about how to portray themselves, community members have 
expressed particular ideas about what the tourists want. Diego's comment that the 
photograph of the Ese Eja man wearing a native cushma is "perfect for the brochure" 
reveals that people are thinking explicitly about image and performance. Also, the 
mestizo guide's decision to call himself a native illustrates some people's conscious 
attempts to match tourists' expectations. 

Over the course of just a few weeks in Infiemo, and in different kinds of 
interactions with outsiders, I watched people demonstrate tremendous creativity in 
matching behaviors to visitors' expectations. With a group of visiting scholars and 
potential donors for the continuation of the project, community members played up their 
role of proud lodge owners, content with the direction tourism was taking in their 
community (though, privately, they had concerns about who was participating and who 
was gaining). With visiting school children, they performed a dance, dressed in what 
they hoped would be perceived as a typical Amazonian Indians — this role to match the 
lesson plans of teachers. For a Native American woman who was visiting from the U.S. 
to share stories about cultural rescue among her people, the members of Infiemo played 
up their own role as cmsaders in rescuing their dying language and tradition. For guests 
who were visiting from another part of the Amazon, the community members apparently 
felt no need to change much of anything — ^the expectations from other Amazonians were 


minimal, and therefore, there was not much to play up to, other than simply being 

The fact that people in Infiemo are shifting the outward manifestations of their 
identity does not imply that they have lost a sense of who they are ("really are"), or their 
ability to distinguish what is genuine from spurious. Especially in places where tourism 
is invited rather than imposed, as in Infiemo, local residents can remain conscious of 
what is real and staged even as they manipulate their culture to attract more tourists. 

Furthermore, the trend to play up or embellish one's cultural identity is not the 
resuh of tourism alone. In an article called, "Cultural Authenticity," Greenwood (1982) 
has suggested, "All viable cultures are in the process of 'making themselves up' all the 
time, hi a general sense, all culture is 'staged authenticity'" (p. 27). I would contend that 
the members of Infiemo have been "making themselves up" for many years, as least as 
long as mestizos and Ese Eja have been sharing the same territory and trying to reconcile 
the differences among them. They are now and perhaps always have been a community 
in transition. Anyone who spends enough time in Infiemo certainly gets the sense that it 
is possible to see culture changing and being recreated on a daily basis. People seem 
always to be shifting their identity. I was reminded of this one day when tourists weren't 
even around. 

It was a Sunday, and the members of a ribereno community upriver were in 
Infiemo, about to engage in a champion soccer match with Infiemo 's team, Los Angeles 
de Infiemo. One of the fans from the other team asked Felipe, a star player from 
Infiemo, "What are you doing wasting your time with those natives of Infiemo? Felipe 
responded without even a pause: "I was bom, raised, and educated in infiemo. I've 


always considered myself to be a native as well." Later in the game, fans for the other 
team yelled out some derogatory comment about how poorly "the natives" play. In 
unison, a group of three women from Infiemo's side, two of whom were sisters of Felipe, 
called back indignantly, "We are not natives!" 

It simply is not clear who is who in Infiemo, and people are deciding this from 
moment to moment, situation to situation, depending on the audience and what's at stake. 
What is clear is that tourism has prompted people to talk openly about the differences 
between them, the changes they are experiencing, and the appropriateness of ethnically 
defined rights and privileges. As an mdirect and perhaps unintended result of tourism, a 
few fundamental questions concerning identity, culture and community have seeped into 
everyday debates and conversations m Infiemo. These include the question of what 
culture is and who has it, how and why ethnic differences defme people, whether ethnic 
diversity is a strength or a weakness, what traditions are meaningful and why, and how 
things have changed over the past twenty five years. 

Rather than gossiping, pointmg fingers, and harboring resentment, people are 
talking openly about these issues and thinking critically about how best to resolve them 
for the benefit of everyone. I perceive the new transparency about issues of ethnic 
conflict as one resuh of tourism. Specifically, tourism has brought to light issues that had 
been in the shadows of Ese Eja-mestizo interactions since the foundmg of the 
coromunity. Though for years people had held strongly to their individual convictions 
about what it means to be Ese Eja or mestizo, they had not engaged m collective 
discussions about the problems that arose from their differences. 


The fact that people are now talking with each other about ethnic differences does 
not mean that before tourism the differences were not apparent. It is just that now the 
debates are open and they are held with the intention to resolve them for the benefit of 
everyone. In sum, though tourism has led to an accentuation of ethnic differences 
Infiemo, and though the differences have led to debates that might result in the creation 
of two new coromunities, the changes are not necessarily ruinous because they are 
coupled with an increased transparency of opinion and a conscious collective effort to 
resolve the differences. 



With a pen poised above the last pages of my notebook, I scooted a chair closer 
to the table, and asked Victor one more question, "What is your hope for the future? " 

Pausing from his task of reorganizing the bead necklaces, carved macaws, and 
brazil nut ashtrays on the handicrafts display, he lowered his head for a moment. "Our 
goal, " he began, as always, speaking for the community, "is to maintain our cultural 
traditions without losing touch with the modern world. " I started to write, and he 
continued, looking now into the distance, "I think we can manage it. We can keep our 
social identity, and not be overrun by the modem world. What 's important is that we 
remain well informed, and that we start to develop a better economy. " 

Jose had been listening from a nearby table as he folded napkins for the evening 's 
guests. "I want to have a huge hacienda, " he called over, "with at least 2,000 heads of 
cattle. And then I'd like to travel to the United States . . ." He watched the tell-tale 
furrow of my brow as I recorded the comment ("Hmmm, I thought, that doesn 't quite jive 
with the ' promise of ecotourism . . .'"), and then I heard him chuckle, "Just kidding! 
What I really want is to live on my farm, raise some chickens. That 's all. " 

Revisiting the Promise of Ecotourism 

Throughout the thesis, I have explored the idea that ecotourism can be a good 
approach to reconciling the goals of conservation and development. My main argument 



has been that our hopes about ecotourism may be well founded, but not necessarily for all 
the reasons we might expect. The conventional wisdom surroimding ecotourism is that it 
leads to more jobs and higher incomes for local communities, while also causing 
relatively little harm to the environment, especially compared to slash-and-bum 
agriculture, hunting, logging, cattle ranching, and mining. Ecotourism seems to promise 
the best of both worlds: better economic welfare for local peoples and reduced pressure 
on natural resources. 

I have proposed we begin to think about the promise of ecotourism in a different 
light. The experiences of Infiemo suggest that the popular wisdom on ecotourism is 
perhaps somewhat simplistic, especially because the economic impacts of tourism 
everywhere are often fleeting and prone to boom-bust cycles. Over time, jobs and 
income from ecotourism, as in other kinds of tourism, may lead to outcomes that conflict 
with the goals of conservation, such as increased consumption and intensification of 
resource exploitation. Indeed, more jobs and higher incomes may be the most tenuous, 
superficial, and risky (from a conservation perspective) impacts of ecotourism. 

The experiences of Infiemo suggest that the more profound and longer-lasting 
impact of ecotourism for host communities can be its role as a springboard to critical 
thinking, learning, and ultimately the strengthening of local autonomy. Because 
ecotourism is an imusual kind of development project, one that holds a mirror of 
expectations to locals, brings the market to them, and rewards them for cultural 
expression and beauty in nature, it fosters learning in ways that other development 
projects might not. Specifically, ecotourism can compel people to ask questions about 
themselves and their own futures; to discuss how best to represent themselves and their 


community to the world, consciously deciding what images to project, and which ones to 
keep private; to notice with new eyes their own resources, talents, and skills, and then to 
think critically about how they might be used, protected, altered, or enhanced for the 
most appropriate apphcation to variously defined local goals. 

These are not the types of processes that typically unfold when tourism is 
imposed on locals by outsiders, or when tourism does involve locals but merely as 
employees or service providers. The critical element in making ecotourism a viable tool 
for long-term conservation and development is local involvement in the higher echelons 
of decision-maldng and control. 

When ecotourism is managed locally, even an economic failure can improve 
people's lives over the long-term. This is because when people are participating, 
"failure" can — and always does — ^lead to learning. When people are participating, and 
something goes wrong, they can take stock of the situation for themselves, reassess what 
they did and didn't do, and then decide what they might do differently the next time. 
When local residents are not participating actively and something goes wrong, outsiders 
who are directing the project can pull out, leaving locals with little of benefit and an en 
greater dependency on others for help in the luture. A s long as people are participating 
actively, they are more likely to be jump-starting their own ideas and thinking critically 
about what works and does not. 

The case of ecotourism in Infiemo provides several examples of how people have 
been transformed through their participation in ecotourism, rather than simply made 
richer. The ethnic disputes I described in Chapter 6 are certainly one result of Posada 
Amazonas, yet they could be seen either as a positive impact or a negative one, 


depending on how people are participating in the project. Had the project been directed 
only by outsiders who hired members of Infiemo to work in the lodge, the exacerbation 
of ethnic tensions could certainly have been deplored as a major failure of the project. 
Certainly, it is not the goal of any conservation or development project to incite conflict 
or tension within communities. 

Yet, the ethnic fall-out in Infiemo, though undeniably catalyzed by tourism, has 
not been a failure of the project. Instead, it has become an opportunity for people to 
discuss openly the problems that have been bubbling below the surface for at least twenty 
years. Today the Ese Eja and the mestizos and the children of mixed families are taUdng 
face to face about issues that were only the stuff of Hi-spirited gossip just three years ago. 
They are having ongoing debates about their differences, and what it means to be Ese Eja 
or mestizo or something else, and whether or not they should split to form two (or more?) 
separate communities. 

Metaphorically and literally the members of Infiemo are stepping back, looking at 
each other and at themselves, assessing and reassessing their differences, and ultimately 
questioning if the diversity among them is their greatest strength or their most debilitating 
weakness. Thek collective questioning, though not always harmonious, has nevertheless 
been productive and meaningful. No one in Infiemo is lost in a quagmire of ethnic 
conflict, pointing fmgers at who belongs and who does not. Rather, they are engaging 
with other on the most fundamental meanings of self and conmaunity, cultural origin and 
destiny. These kinds of discussions and critical analyses can only be positive in the long 
run, as they are critical for gaining autonomy and self-determination. 


In closing the thesis, I have tried to foresee the possibilities for the future of 
Infiemo, for the people and the forests in which they live, in the year 2015. That is the 
year the joint venture wiU end officially. What will people be doing then? Will they 
have ceased to be a farming community? How will they look and behave and speak? 
How will the private, "backstage" Infiemo differ from the world the tourists see? 

I could make conjectures and predictions, and I could answer all of my own 
questions with singular truths. I could say, "they're going this way or that." Yet, I 
wonder if my imagination is expansive enough to capture all of the possibilities. Where I 
see contradiction and limitation, people in Infiemo see complementary goals and new 
opportunities. In a single breath, they talk about "cultural rescue" and the need to return 
to tradition and authenticity, even as they make plans to open an office (with a 
telephone/fax, computer, and internet) in the rapidly growing urban center of Puerto 
Maldonado. They make plans to re-leam Ese Eja and to teach it consciously to their 
children, even as they attend nightly classes to get a handle on English, practicing it 
whenever possible with tourists. They discuss expanding the road and welcoming 
outsiders to visit them — maybe to watch a soccer game, buy handicrafts, leam about Ese 
Eja tradition, even as they worry about what to do with the slow, but steady influx of new 

Recently, leaders in Infiemo established agreements with three other Pemvian 
tourism companies with lodges along the Tambopata River. Each of the three companies 
agreed to pay the community to enter Infiemo by road from Puerto Maldonado, and then 
connect to boats awaiting them in the commimity's river port. To get from the road to the 
river by way of the community, tourists will pass through the area where children sit in 


their open-door classrooms, where the men and women walk to each other's homes and 
fields, where parents with infants visit the small health clmic for monthly development 
check-ups, where on occasional Saturdays community members gather for meetings, and 
where on all the Sundays entire families join to play soccer, cheer, drink beer and eat pan 
de arroz. If there is any place, any physical location, in Infiemo that might be called its 
heart, this is it— precisely where three company's worth of tourists will begin traipsing 
through on a twice-daily basis. 

Meanwhile, the newly expanded road between Infiemo and Puerto Maldonado 
has become the source of increased traffic in and out of the community. Trucks and vans 
filled with city dwellers, merchants, and increasing numbers of day trippers and curiosity 
seekers ("Let's drive to the native community today — I hear there's a soccer game.") pull 
up alongside the school almost everyday. 

These new developments make the controversy, concern, and excitement 
surrounding Infiemo's initial agreement with Rainforest Expeditions seem like a distant 
memory, one that surely was important while I was recording it, but that now feels almost 
trivial. Clearly, Posada Amazonas is just one of several factors of change in Miemo. 
Others drivers of change include colonization, agricultural expansion, urbanization, and 
the globalization of local markets. As these various kinds of influences converge to 
reshape the social and natural landscapes in Infiemo, as in other places throughout the 
Amazon, it wiU become harder and harder to discem what tourism, relative to other 
activities, has caused. 


Conversations and Decisions at the Crossroads 

"'£cotourism' is something managed by the commimity. ' Tourism' is 
something that comes from the outside." 

-Member of the Ke'eway Association, Mfiemo, 1998 

I will close the thesis with several stories from Infiemo. Each of these lingered in 
my thoughts as I connected the pieces of this study, and, in many ways they seemed to 
illustrate more vividly and persuasively the important, if early, impacts ecotourism has 
aheady had in hifiemo. Each of the stories represent moments in which I felt I was 
witness to something out of the ordinary in Infiemo, moments when it seemed I was 
literally watching people arrive at a new crossroads in their history. Many events and 
conversations probably felt more momentous to me than they might have seemed to other 
people~my mode as "social analyst" ensured this. Yet, some of the decisions I saw 
unfolding in Infiemo seemed especially meaningful, even to the most casual observer. 

One of these was during a 1999 workshop for development planning in which 
co mmu nity members had drawn pictures of their visions of Infiemo, twenty years into the 
future. After each of the drawings had been taped to a makeshift board and hung from 
the wooden support beams of the lodge, the participants began walking slowly from 
picture to picture, as if in a gallery, quietly contemplating the art. At one point, one of 
the mestizo elders stepped forward to scmtinize a younger man's drawing more carefully. 
After a few moments, he remarked, 'Wo sepuede . . . you can't have agriculture 
overlapping with tourism." The next person beside him, an Ese Eja man who had been 
serving as secretary of the Ecotourism Committee for several months, moved in closer to 

196 ! 


Study the drawing. "Si, eso es verdad, especially if there's a Harpy nest nearby. We | 

shouldn't clear forest around those areas." i 


Everyone's eyes focused on the picture as they stood in silence. Finally, one of [ 


the owners of Rainforest Expeditions interjected, almost sheepishly: "Isn't agriculture 1 

important for tourism too? I mean, the tourists have to eat, the staff needs to eat, right? 

Maybe farming could be planned in a different way in the future, maybe restricted to [ 

certain zones." Several people nodded in agreement as they began to debate the idea of I 

zoning for agriculture. • 


They did not reach a conclusion that afternoon, but the fact that they even had the [ 


conversation is worth noting because it illustrates one of the more profound impacts [ 

ecotourism has had in Infiemo. In that gathering around the hand-drawn visions of [ 

Infiemo, people were not focusing on how much money they would be earning from 
tourism, or on how many staff persons the lodge would employ in twenty years. Rather, 
they were involved in a spirited discussion that was more strategic and far-reaching in 
that it concerned the very future of the community. This kind of visioning is more likely 
to occur, I believe, when local residents are active participants in making tourism a long- 
term option for their livelihoods. 

On a separate occasion, this time in a general assembly meeting, the community 
members who had gathered under the corrugated tin roof of the casa comunal were 
voting on whether or not to approve a new road that would wind through Infiemo, 
paralleling the Tambopata River as far south as the confluence with the Malinowski river. 
As they began to exchange ideas, a couple of people raised their hands to comment on 
potential conflicts with the tourism project. Doiia Elisa, a founding member of Infiemo, 


and the mother of a man who had begun working as a guide in the lodge, spoke up first, 
"No, we can not permit a road," she declared, "We have tourism. What about the 
business for our children?" Lucia, a young woman beside her, looked down at the small 
boy fidgeting on her lap and nodded. 

From across the room, Rafael spoke up next: "Others would come in," he said, 
pointing his finger didactically, "and they would just clear more forest for their chacras. 
The animals would disperse. What about our project? Tourists come to see wildlife." 

These comments were astonishing, especially because roads have so often been 
equated with development in the Amazon. In interviews just weeks before that assembly, 
people had told me that the already existing road connecting Infiemo to Puerto 
Maldonado was a positive development for the community. In particular, they explained, 
the road was important for transporting their goods to the market, for evacuating people 
in times of medical emergency, and also ("maybe in the future"), for inviting outsiders to 
visit and buy handicrafts. So, it seemed especially significant that, by consensus, the 
community would vote to say no to an extension of the road in favor of keeping the 
forests within the community intact. To me, this was one form of recognition of 
ecotourism as a viable development alternative, and one that would exist only so long as 
people planned the use of their land and resources carefully. 

Later in the assembly, Diomedis, an Andean migrant from Puno who had been 

living in the Cascajal sector of the community from more than a decade and was earning 

the most from agriculture and cattle than anyone else in Infiemo, raised a powerful point. 

He stood and faced the president as he spoke: 

''Senor President, lapalabra: We are deciding between two groups. For 
some of us, the road is especially important to be able to transport our 


agricultural products. For others, it's more important to maintain 
traditions. So we must choose: on the one side, development; on the other, 

Thanking Diomedis and then surveying the faces in the crowd, the president of 
Infiemo that year, a young Ese Eja man who had been actively involved in tourism and 
was also the leader of the "cultural rescue" efforts, responded, "We cannot decide now, 
but it is most important that we remain well organized among ourselves. We wUl be able 
to continue this discussion in latter meetings." 

No outsiders were present in these community meetings to "facilitate" the 
thoughtful debate (I had become something of a normal fixture, observing and taking 
notes, but making no effort to sway opinion). The absence of outside influence is what 
made these discussions fascinating: the ideas about what was at stake (tradition versus 
development), what the trade-offs were (better access to town, fewer wildlife for 
tourists), and how they should decide, emanated from the conmiunity members 
themselves. I think it is precisely because people in Infiemo are participating actively in 
ecotourism, an endeavor that has prompted them to examine various issues of 
conservation and development for themselves, not for the benefit of outsiders, that this 
level of self-determination is possible. Thus the true potential of ecotourism: more than 
just making people richer for a moment, it can prepare them to plan a sustainable future 
for themselves. 

A final story took place in yet another general assembly meeting in which people 
were debating how to reconcile the way they had always done things in Infiemo with the 
new limitations and opportunities presented to them in the context of tourism. The 
community coordinator for Posada Amazonas had raised his hand in the meeting to 
inform the members that the community upriver had located a Harpy eagle nest in their 


territory, and that they were planning to advertise the nest for tour groups visiting a 
competitor lodge. There was some murmur of concern about what to do when one of the 
men who had initially located Harpy nest in Infiemo spoke up: "It does not matter-other 
communities can find Harpy eagle nests, and that's fine. But the other community found 
a nest that is six hours away from the river edge. Ours is only a one-hour walk away 
from the river. We're still winning." 

"Winning," I thought. They are not talking about a soccer match, or a land 
dispute, but rather a competition over viewing access to a species of bird that just a few 
years ago was no more than an occasional prey for feathers. I wrote in my notebook: 
"This seems to signal a change in the community's valuation of Harpy eagles." For a 
moment, I considered I might be giving too much weight to just one man's comment. 
And then the conversation switched to an issue regarding the Giant otters in the 
community's oxbow lake, Tres Chimbadas. 

Apparently, people from neighboring communities were visiting the lake to fish, 
and there was some concern that too much fishing would threaten the viabihty of the otter 
population, which relies heavily on fish for their diet. The president stood from where he 
was sitting at the officers' table, and walked to the center of the room. "If the otters 
leave," he began, "it affects us all. They are our key attraction for tourists." No one 
questioned what the president meant, no one argued that the fish were there to be caught, 
no one pomted out that the other fishermen were, in fact, a competition for fishermen in 
Infiemo. The problem as they perceived it was that other fishermen were competing with 
the otters, and the otters had become important to community. As a result of that 


meeting, the members decided to form a committee that would be responsible for 
guarding the laie and ensuring that no one fished there without prior authorization. 


The title of the thesis and of this chapter is, "Because it is ours ..." I chose these 
four simple words to represent the most important lesson I learned over four years of 
research in Infiemo. The words are important because they are what so many people 
used to cormnence their answers to a range of different questions. I would ask, "Why 
have you chosen to work at Posada Amazonas?" or "Why do you think tourists visit 
Posada Amazonas?" or "Why have you volunteered to be a part of the Ecotourism 
Cormnittee," and like a mantra, men and women, Ese Eja and mestizos, young and old 
would begin, ''Porque es de nosotros ..." The answer must have been obvious because 
so many people seemed incredulous that I even needed to ask. 

The realization that Posada Amazonas is an unusual experiment among 
ecotourism projects, special because it is locally owned and operated, is not lost on the 
people of Infiemo. Indeed, their words reflect a profound consciousness of the ways in 
which their lodge — their lodge — is different. It is precisely their mindfulness of the 
rights and responsibilities they have to initiate what they want, follow-through, evaluate, 
make changes, and then re-initiate that v^dll make a long term positive difference for 
conservation and development in Infiemo. It is also their cognizance of the fact that 
other people wiU be paying attention and offering support when they need it. Finally, it is 
their understanding that whatever happens, everyone will be learning from the process, 
thinking critically about the changes that are happening as they are happening, rather 


than once it's too late. This ultimately will be the key to ensuring the success of 
ecotourism in Infiemo, both for the people who live there and for forests in which they 


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Table 1 Investment and Financing for the Lodge (In $US Thousands) 















Rainforest Expeditions 



Native Community of Infiemo 



MacArthur Foundation 














Source: Rainforest Expeditions 

Rainforest Expeditions agreed to seek financing for the project and identify 
various sources of support. After nine months of searching, a bilateral funding source, the 
Peru-Canada Fund, agreed to a three-year financing contract. The Fund first dispersed an 
amount of $250,000, sixty per cent of which was allocated for inirastructure, including 
palm thatching, wood sidings, cane and clay, wooden floors and support posts, and forty 
percent of which was earmarked for equipment, including fiimiture, kitchen supplies, 
bathroom fixtures, etc. The fimding was provided as a loan to Rainforest Expeditions 
over three years after which time, full ownership of the lodge and its contents was 
transferred to the community. After the transfer, the Ke'eway Association was 
responsible for paying 40% of the loan (or the amount disbursed for equipment). 



In exchange for receiving the other 60% of the funds from Peru-Canada in the 
form of a grant rather than a loan, the partners had to agree to the following conditions: 1) 
Rainforest Expeditions agreed to invest in administrative infrastructure and marketing at 
an approximate value of $55,000; and 2) the Native Community agreed to invest labor 
into building the lodge, at an estimated value of $60,000. 

The partners later sought an additional disbursement of $75,000 to construct a 
w^ing of six rooms. An estimated $75,000 to $ 1 00,000 was still needed to finish other 
additions to the lodge, including administrative offices, personnel rooms, stock rooms, a 
guest bar, and elevated wooden bridges to connect each of the thatched modules. The 
total investment in the lodge, upon completion, will be $550,000. Of the total amount, 
$425,000 will have been invested ui infrastructure (i.e., construction, equipment, and 
suppHes), and the rest in adminisfration, marketing, and labor. 

Rainforest Expeditions assumes full risk on the investment, but all reinvestment 
decisions are made by the company before profits are split. If reinvestment decisions 
were made otherwise, the community would be required to assume more of the risk. 
Because the community has no capital other than land, their communally titled land 
would become collateral. As the agreement stands, the Infiemo is not at risk of losing 
their land, even if Posada Amazonas fails financially. 



Posada Amazonas is situated 10 minutes from the right bank of the Tambopata 
River on the opposite side of beach known locally as Hermosa Grande. Tourists reach 
the lodge by walking 1 minutes on wooden staircases and dirt trail from the river bank. 
It is built as a comfortable lodge, almost luxurious, yet made from local materials, 
including wood, palm thatch, wild cane, and clay. 

The lodge itself consists of a complex often sections: guestrooms, dining area 
and kitchen, hammock lounge, and personnel quarters. The dining area can host up to 
eighty and is designed also as a workshop and presentation area. The entire lodge is 
covered by "crisneja" palm fronds, and the floors are laid with tropical mahogany. 

The guest rooms are large (4x7 meters) wifh two or three double beds each and a 
private bathroom with cold running water. One side of each room is open to the forest, 
free of either screens or windows. The rooms are separated by walls made of cane and 
covered with clay, which helps regulate the temperature of the rooms as well as muffle 
sounds between neighbors in adjoining rooms. 

Outside the lodge, 1 5 minutes by foot trail is a 35-meter scaffolding tower, with 
staircase steps for climbing to a canopy-level view of the forest and the Tambopata river. 

The typical itinerary includes: 
■ an ethnobotanical walk through the forest, led by a member of the community and 
translated by one of Rainforest Expeditions' guides. Together, the two guides explain 




the medicinal and household uses of more than 30 species of plants. Though in 1999, 

one member of the cormniinity learned enough EngUsh to be able to conduct the tour 

without the help of a translator. 

a one and a half hour walk through atypical chacra. Here tourists leam about slash 

and bum agriculture, and they are shown a variety of fruit and vegetable crops 

cultivated locally; 

a visit to two clay licks, one frequented mostly by Red and Green macaws (Ara 

chlowptera); the another, by Cobalt-winged parakeets {Brotogeris cyanoptera) and 

Dusky-headed parakeets {Aratinga weddellii); 

a morning visit to an oxbow lake in which tourists cruise on a catamaran for three 

hours and are likely to encounter a family of giant otters. 

Amanda Stronza was bom in Maryland and raised in the Shenandoah Valley of 
West Virginia. In 1990, she graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the 
George Washington University with a B.A. in International Affairs. For three years 
before enrolling in the Tropical Conservation and Development Program at the 
University of Florida, she worked in the Latm American Division of Conservation 
Mtemational. She has lived and/or studied in Belize, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and the 
Philippines, but her main region of focus since 1 990 has been the Tambopata Candamo 
Reserved Zone in southeastern Peru. She has worked several times as a professional 
facilitator for conservation planning workshops, and her research interests include social 
and environmental change m Amazonia, local involvement in conservation planning, 
economic mcentives for natural resource management, and community-based ecotourism. 


I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to 
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 

Marianne Schmink, Chairman 
Professor of Anthropology 

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to 
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 

^or of Anthropology 

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to 1 

acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, [ 

as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 


Associate Professor of Anthropology 

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to 
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philospj 


Peter Hildebrand 

Professor of Food and Resource Economics 

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department of 
Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate School and 
was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of 

August 2000 

Dean, Graduate School